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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weiland Quits to Avoid Dividing Party. Oops.

The Kevin Weiland non-campaign is online thanking everyone for a great effort:

Thank you everyone! In 96 hours we orchestrated, energized and executed a statewide petition drive that recruited over 120 volunteers gathering nearly 4000 signed and notarized petitions. We should all be proud. The South Dakota progressive movement is alive and well. I cannot begin to thank you enough! This was a true grassroots movement "Kevin for South Dakota" Facebook page, 2010.03.31].

It's tough to be a gracious quitter:

Sarah Holz: I agree with Parker, this grassroots movement truly showed how willing South Dakotans are to embrace change, but how is that to happen when we have no one who is willing to implement it?

Chris Sonne: So after all the hard work of people gathering petitions you just drop out? The grass roots still isn't going to vote for Stephanie this fall, so I don't know who this benefits. What a pointless, dispiriting waste of time this whole thing was. I'm very disappointed.

Jackie Schumacher: I'm absolutely upset. My whole family was so excited about having a real democrat to stand behind. And whether you want it or not, the party IS divided. I will not vote for her. Health care or no health care. There are too many other issues that matter as well. Way to get a group of people fired up, only to leave them cynical and angry.

Deborah Gangloff: Wow. You appear to have no idea of the damage you've done with this little vanity lap. Your comments are insulting. [visitor comments, "Kevin for South Dakota" Facebook page, 2010.03.31]

Weiland told Kevin Woster his withdrawal was about finding "the positive way forward, not dividing Democrats in a contentious primary battle in which the winner is unable to effectively unite our party in the fall election."


I'll cast no aspersions on Dr. Weiland's character. He at least had the courage to announce and take a swing at the petition process. And a guy is entitled to change his mind.

But on party unity, Weiland is wrong. A primary would not have divided the South Dakota Democratic Party. A primary would have channeled all the energy his petition drive unleashed into a positive and exciting campaign. We'd have had the conversation we need about the direction our our party. We'd have waged our arguments, cast our votes, and come out more united for picking a winner in a fair fight.

Now, after waging the sort of lightning fast and effective petition drive that the raging Tea Bags can only fantasize about (Gordon Howie, you had two months—how many signers did you get?), we are all Blue Dogs by default.

When there's stress, you've got to let it out. That applies to individuals and organizations. A U.S. House primary was an excellent opportunity to do just that. A primary was "the positive way forward" to strengthen the eventual winner to unite and lead the party.

Oh well. I guess it's up to the 3800 petition signers to find their own positive way to make their voices heard. I suppose we could start 3800 new Democratic blogs (Travis Dahle is taking a break for a week—I could use some help spreading the Dem gospel online, folks!). And we do have a convention coming up in Sioux Falls in June....


  1. Sorry Cori,

    Dr. Weiland made the correct choice. Any Democrat running for state wide office in South Dakota has got to appeal to the very voters that the DNC and the present administration have constantly put down as racist, gun toting, religious fanatics. You have, at times made the same mistake. The President appears to have realized this mistake and has extended a very weak olive branch to the Tea Party movement.

    There is more to America that just the east and west coasts and having an Ivy League education does not just automatically make you not stupied. I have known some who are truly stupied. An education does not make a stupied man not stupied but it does make him easier to manipulate.

    Ms. Herseth-Sandlin does an excellent job of balancing her centralist Democratic values with the values she grew up with in South Dakota. Until a progressive Democratic candidate can find a way to unite Republican, Independent, Democratic voters and the progressive elements of the South Democratic party(no easy task) behind them in an election as Ms. Herseth-Sandlin got Republicans and Independents to vote for her(not progressive Democrats)then the progressive arm of the Democratic party will, in South Dakota,remain a vocal but immaterial minority with no actual say so in main stream South Dakota politics. Read a history of South Dakota politics.

    You shouldn't run for political office just to be a sacrafical lamb, but to make changes that you believe in.

    Dr. Weiland, I think, understands this. He will run for office,I hope, when the time is right and he can find a way to unite the voters of this state behind his campaign. A smart man.

    Joseph G Thompson

  2. Sorry, Joseph,

    When you can roust up 3800+ signatures in one week in South Dakota, I will suggest conservatively that you have a 50-50 shot at winning.

    The change I believe in comes from having the conversation about what it means to be a Democrat in South Dakota, not defaulting to the perpetually subordinate position of Blue Dog. The time was right. The time was now.

  3. I doubt there are any South Dakota progressives who believe that there's nothing more to America than the coasts and that you have to have an Ivy League education to be smart. We all live here, too. We know our neighbors and our communities. I think we should be able hope to actually be represented without being accused of elitism.

  4. EXcellent point, kelsey. I'm alarmed at how often progressive South Dakotans' efforts to advocate for change are incorrectly (and by some other commentators, deliberately) conflated with elitism and outsideness. We belong here as much as anyone else.

  5. Cori,
    3800 signatures in a week can be relatively easy. The progressive side of the Democratic party was, for the most part,fired up and in favor of the primary challenge. How many of them are there? How many indivdual petitions were circulated? Then you have people like me who will sign any petition, even if I disagree with the premise of the petition because I believe the people should have a say.

    I agree with you in part. Dr. Wieland might well have won the primary, but in the general election it probably would not have been pretty.

    Demographics and history show that while voters in South Dakota will dabble in radical or reactionary politics(sometimes at the same time, IE Nixon McGovern)they always return to the center.

    An assumption on my part tells me that Dr. Weiland realized that he might probably win the battle(primary) but would most certainly lose the war(general election). Such a loss would certainly not be in the best interests of the national Democratic party, nor of the party in South Dakota. It is always best not to fight a winning battle, if the result of winning that battle causes you to lose the war.

    The smart man knows when to fight and when to set on the side lines, especially in South Dakota politics. You get only one chance and if you go down in a stunning defeat, it's over. The political landscape in South Dakota is strewn with one time candidates who had good ideas, but the time had not come for those ideas to be acceptted in the main stream.

    The wise candidate knows when to strike to win both the battle and the war. He knows that if the time comes never to strike then his ideas will never bear fruit and he has only three choices, find common ground, walk away or continue to joust with wind mills(I have always prefered jousting with windmills,but then I am not a politician).

    The extremes of both parties are, are for the most part, non entities in the main stream of South Dakota politics.

    A wise man, who is the politcal opposite of me, once, in a playful conversation about gun control asked me to justify my stand. I cited both the U.S. and the South Dakota Constitutions, he agreed with me and then asked me if I thought everyone in America should be able to possess a nuclear weapon. I, of course, answered no.
    His response was, see we agree that weapons need to be controlled, it is only to what degree and to what level that we must reach a consenus.

    I believe that you and Mr. Ellis believe what you believe is the truth. What I would like to see is you and Mr. Ellis be forced to answer some questions with only yes or no as permissable answers. I know you personally and Mr. Ellis only by his web site and his posts here, but I believe that you both have only one primary goal, making South Dakota and the United States a better place to live.

    If you, Bob Ellis, and people like the two of you can find common ground and work together to make those small changes that you can agree on happen, it would be a dream come true for this tired, old, worn out soldier. I believe that the two of you are not as far away from each other as the two of you may think. Changes that are effective start with small steps. Do not teach your children to compromise but teach them to find common ground with their political opposites. The small changes that you and Mr. Ellis can together make now become in the next generation the norm and your children will only have to find common ground to make small changes that they can agree on and as each generation evolves so does the dream of American opportunity.
    An old GI saying, don't eat your children.

    Sorry about the long posts, but retirement is great.

    Joseph G Thompson

  6. Kelsy,
    Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough, I was not talking about the progressive movement in South Dakota but leadership within the National Democratic Party, although I do know a few South Dakotans who are eletists and I do argue with them and I only argue with those I respect. Maybe my mistake was in starting a new paragraph but no where did I use or accuse anyone of eletism, not that there is anything wrong with it, many of my friends and all of my enemies call me an eletist and I don't argue with them cause they could be right, who am I too judge their truth.

    And, I voted for Mr. Obama too.
    Joseph G Thompson

  7. Joseph, I appreciate the clarification. Kelsey and I hear charges of "elitism" a lot, so we have sensitive alarms to such language.

    3800 signatures "easy"? Only if, as you suggest, you are operating in a target-rich environment. There had to be a lot of Dems ready to walk, knock, and drive to round up all those names. A lot of folks were fired up, and that promised a very interesting primary race. If the petition drive was "easy", that only strenghens my argument that a lot of Dems want to have a serious conversation about the direction of the state Democratic party. This is no windmill we're tilting at: this is a lot of South Dakotans who believe their party can be more than it is.

  8. Cori,
    My point is that Dr. Weiland is a smart and wise man, who went into preparing much earlier for the race than anyone gives him credit for.

    Proper prepartion in South Dakota politics would dictate that you would have some idea of the political stands of some,if not most, of the people who signed your petitions and offered to circulate your petitions.

    If most of the circulators and signers were of what would be considered main line Democrats in South Dakota then I think he would have made a run for it, but I think he found that most were from the progressive side who were energized and anxious for a debate with Ms. Herseth-Sandlin.

    To win a political fight you can not be wind mill jousters like you and I.

    I know I have made a lot of assumptions here, but when you are dealing with a smart and wise man some assumptions are easy make, even if we don't like them.

    Joseph G Thompson
    PS please tell your sweet wife that I am an old man and it is much easier for me to write in the masculine,I mean no disrespect to what Rudyard Kipling called the Deadlier of The Species.

  9. Joseph, it's a reasonable assumption that a lot of signers we progressives like me, itching for a fight. But consider, too, that canvassers didn't have lists of "progressive" Dems. Usually, we walk with plain old lists of Dems, with no way of knowing whether we're knocking on a Wellstone door, a Blue Dog door, or a "Heck, I don't even remember what I registered as" door. So it's a reasonable assumption that the petitions may have included more than a few "ordinary" Dems who wanted to see a race... and who might be more sympathetic to health care reform and other "progressive" issues than you think.

  10. Cori,
    Quite true that is why they are assumptions, but we also must assume that Dr. Weiland was privey to information that we are not and that the decision he made was a rational and thought out decision or else you must assume it was a sell out. I prefer rational and thought out.

    Joseph G Thompson

  11. Joseph.

    1. Getting that many signatures in a week isn't easy, it's a near miracle.

    2. Weiland never saw the petitions and probably never will.

    3. Herseth Sandlin will never see those names either.

    4. That list is perhaps the most valuable political list in South Dakota right now.

    5. You can read Kevin's reasons in the Rapid City Journal. No need to speculate.

  12. Mr. Fleming,

    I appreciate your comment. It sheds more light on the subject and removes my need to speculate about the real reason Mr. Wieland stepped back. The only question that remains; was it a rational, well thought out decision or was it a sell out, as Mr. Hildebran suggests?

    Joseph G Thompson


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