Thursday, August 18, 2011

South Dakota Politics: Why Isn't Competence The Priority?

What follows is a slightly modified cross-post of my response to this comment at The Madville Times.  The commenter writes,
“I have seen her [Kristi Noem] at events and she personally went around and talked with each person there.”
Later, I came across this Dakota War College post in which the author concludes,
When Dennis Daugaard speaks I listen, because I believe him to be a genuine and honest man who has earned my support.
Let me stipulate with all seriousness that I'm sure that Kristi Noem Dennis Daugaard are  better human beings than I am, and I hope God will reward each of them on judgment day with mansions the size of New Hampshire.

That being said, I don’t care if a politician greets everyone in the room and is a friendly person that people like and beg to attend their backyard barbecues and their children’s baptisms and weddings. Further, I have not met Governor Daugaard, Senator Thune, Representative Noem, or former Representative Herseth-Sandlin.  I have shaken hands with Senator Johnson but I would hardly call the exchange a conversation.

I have seen few people in statewide or local office that I would consider genuine.  Further, I find it hard to believe that most politicians are genuinely "nice" people.  (I can think of two exceptions that I'll keep to myself so my endorsement does no harm to their careers.)  To gain positions of leadership and run for statewide office, one must have stabbed a few people in the back to reach the top.  I'm guessing all of the above are guilty of political treachery.

Because I don't necessarily expect politicians to be kind, generous, genuine, or honest, I want four things from my elected officials. First, I want them to be more intelligent and wiser than I am so that they can sort through complicated issues and reach sound conclusions.  None of the above strike me as wise individuals.

Second, I want them to work hard to educate themselves on both sides of an issue.  I don't get the feeling that Noem or Thune work that hard.

Third, I want them to courageous enough to vote for things that benefit three people who didn’t donate to their campaign even if that thing doesn’t benefit one person who did.  I won't hold my breath waiting for any of the above to take on a major contributer.

Finally, I want politicians to tell me how and why they voted the way they did without resorting to party-approved, focus-group tested talking points. Citizens of Texas, Missouri, Iowa, and South Dakota should not hear their representatives and senators mouthing the same speeches.

I don't care if they greet me nicely while they are out campaigning.  That "nice behavior" is a test of acting skills not character, and nothing in any campaign exchange can be construed as genuine.  Further, with all due respect to Leo Durocher, nice people should not necessarily finish last, but being "genuine" or friendly doesn't mean that they should be elected.

In short, I'd much prefer competent leaders who put their constituents not their party first.  I don't think I'm going to get to see my preference in action any time soon.

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