Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Minor Musing About Bob Schwartz's Analysis Of South Dakota Politics

I've read Bob Schwartz's exit evaluation several times. It's a thoughtful jeremiad. The most interesting and accurate paragraphs point out that many of the problems Schwartz identifies will also be found in Ohio, his destination:
I could say that I am heading to some wonderful place where all the problems I experienced in South Dakota would not exist and how it is some wonderful political paradise. That wouldn't be true. Ohio, the place of my birth and the place where most of my beliefs were born, is just as messed up in many ways as is South Dakota. Ohioans for the most part have many of the same problems and concerns as folks do here but with one major exception. The 2 party system, while nothing to brag about anywhere, is actually alive and well in Columbus so all citizens at least have a voice. Heck, sitting Presidents and Presidential candidates actually visit the state from time to time and truly feel the need to pander to our needs in search of our mighty electoral votes!
Unfortunately in Pierre where Democrats are all but non-existent, it seems the biggest issue is not necessarily doing what is best for the residents but in determining who can come up with the most ridiculous legislation to determine who is more Conservative or who isn't Conservative enough. While in the national political arena, South Dakota isn't even an afterthought except to mock every once in awhile. [Emphasis mine]
The bolded parts indicated the significant difference between South Dakota and many other states, the lack of a functioning Democratic Party. Coincidentally, Dakota War College helps Schwartz make his point. Pat Powers celebrates South Dakota Democrats' dysfunction:
Almost ten years later, the Democratic Party is shattered and in pieces, their highest elected official is retiring in the face of certain defeat, and the next highest official is a mayor in a non-partisan office who doesn't like it when the media refer to him in that manner, and they’re an endangered species in the legislature.
The first comment under Powers's post comes from SD Jammer who contends South Dakota's Republicans are too moderate:
And many are making the warning today that the moderates in the Republican Party that legislate and govern like [D]emocrats no longer represent their values.
Politics like nearly every other human creation naturally seeks a dichotomy. One does not simultaneously root for both the David and the Goliath when the two are in conflict. For every Yin, there must be a Yang; I don't know a single Guinness drinker who voluntarily buys Miller Lite. Further, people define themselves both by what they are and what they are not. Protestants, for example, define themselves, in part, as not Roman Catholic.

Powers and Schwartz are correct; South Dakota Democrats are not currently a a political force to be taken seriously. Further, SD Jammer's protestations to the contrary, moderate Republicans have been extinct for at least a decade. Republicans define themselves as being conservative. They want to be anything but liberal. South Dakota Republicans have, therefore, created a new dichotomy between the far right and the right with both sides making concentrated effort to establish conservative bona fides.

I don't know how long a state can survive dominated by one party whose internal debates  offer distinctions between only conservative and reactionary positions. Schwartz's analysis rings true, so I suspect it will take only two or three election cycles before South Dakota politics takes on the air of a belly bucking contest between Glen Beck and Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh having been deemed too moderate.

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