Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Few Modest Proposals For South Dakota Democrats

I'm not a Democrat, and no one asked for my help, but I really want South Dakota to have two parties. Voting should matter, but in this state it really doesn't because the Republicans have a virtual monopoly on power. I'll offer the advice, so I can say I tried when I still have to vote against the evil of two lessers twenty years from now.

First, Will Rogers didn't really think that political parties should be disorganized when he said "I belong to no organized party, I'm a Democrat." You all know that, right? I have to ask because for a party that has a community organizer as its national leader, your organizing skills are abysmal.

I teach; that fact should make me part of your natural constituency. No Democrat has ever asked my wife or me to a local or county gathering. No one has attempted to get me to register Democrat rather than independent. South Dakota Republicans have asked me to do both. Now, I love being a curmudgeon and don't like joining groups that would accept me as a member, but I'm not normal. If you want to win elections you have to organize normal people who want to be asked and generally love joining groups.

Second, the South Dakota Republicans are the equivalent of the New York Yankees during any number of the team's glory years, and you're the equivalent of last season's Minnesota Twins. When the Twins concentrate on building a farm system and creating talent within that system, they can compete with the Yankees. When they spend too much trying to keep a superstar like Joe Mauer, they become the league's punching bag

The analogy, for Democrats who aren't sports fans, has two parts. Joe Mauer can't win the pennant for the Twins by himself; Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and Brendan Johnson are not going to save South Dakota Democrats. Further, you need to put your folks in the legislature and develop their political skills there. Don't run someone statewide until they have made a name for themselves in Pierre. Make sure they've actually accomplished something besides being elected.

Third, I willingly concede that an idea inside Krist Noem's head probably makes the same sound that a single Altoids mint inside a large Altoids tin makes when one shakes the tin violently. No one, however, is going to beat Noem by pointing out her lack of intellect. H.L. Menken was right when he said,
“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
The corollary to remember is that no one ever lost an election because an opponent convinced voters the candidate was stupid. Candidates lose elections by being unlikable. Your candidates won't have to work too hard to convince anyone they are smarter than Noem; they need to be sure that they appear more more likable.

Fourth, getting someone elected governor is far more important than getting someone elected to the U.S. Senate or U.S House.

Fifth, if you want to groom someone for the governorship, put everything you have into getting him or her elected attorney general. If the person is competent,that position will allow him or her to keep getting press mentions without seeming like a publicity hog.

Sixth, stop turning spider monkeys like Rounds and Thune into 800 pound gorillas. You may not be able to beat them but they should not run against cream puffs that make them look invincible.

Seventh, Republicans are better than you are at using Plain Folks propaganda and slogans like "Flag, Freedom, Fried Chicken." The only way to beat that combination is to show yourselves to be more competent than the good old boys who claim to be just like regular folk.

Finally, I don't like the sales tax on food, and I'm angry that Republicans have decimated public education. South Dakota voters don't seem to care. You don't need to change your principles but you need to find issues that voters will rally around. I may be wrong, but I think you squandered a chance on open government issues.

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