Too much angst? Maybe it's just the weather....
I confess my dismay with "Independent Democrat" Scott Heidepriem's campaign for governor. One fellow Dem said it took her more than one casual viewing of his TV ads to realize that he was not a Republican. Another notes that his Issues page is all about fiscal restraint. Alternative energy, education, and economic development, all issues where Democrats could make strong points about how three straight decades of Republican dominance have left us lagging, get a mere "More to come" at the bottom of the page. Reproductive rights and anti-discrimination laws get no mention.
And then there's his running mate, Ben Arndt. Instead of using his lieutenant governor choice to bring up a young Democrat and deepen the party's bench, Heidepriem selects a young Republican, a corporate executive, a transplant from Iowa with no political track record other than big donations from his father-in-law. Not exactly the kind of choice that makes me jump on a soapbox and shout, "We are Dems—hear us roar!"
Now Heidepriem is simply following a logical political strategy. Republicans have won 80% of South Dakota's gubernatorial elections. The surest way to win the governor's office in South Dakota is to campaign as a Republican. Heidepriem is doing that. You don't get to do good Democrat things in office if you don't win office in the first place.
Heidepriem can make the point that we don't get to pursue any Democratic objectives if we don't get our fiscal house in order first. He can make the point that a majority of South Dakotans aren't thinking about buolding a political party; they want to hear about fixing government, and budget cuts and ending no-bid contracts are the safest issues to tap that sentiment.
But South Dakota Democrats could use their sentiment tapped as well. They could use an assurance that their candidate will use his veto pen to stop any unconstitutional abortion bans. They could use an assurance that their candidate will fight to raise our rock-bottom teacher salaries. They could use an assurance that their candidate will stop Pierre's palling around with Big Oil, make TransCanada pay its way and respect landowners, and roll back Mike Rounds's red carpet for Hyperion.
Alas, we aren't allowed to declare our Democraticness. We need to keep our Democratic ideals quiet. We need to go along with the conventional wisdom, act like we are Republicans... hey, wait a minute: that doesn't feel like being an "Independent Democrat."
I guess if Democrats are looking for someone to fly the party flag in South Dakota, we'll have to turn to the youngest female State Senator-elect in our history, Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls. She's proved that you don't have to preface "I'm a Democrat" with any apology or adjective to win an election in South Dakota. The rest of our party should follow her lead.
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