Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mega Post About 2014 South Dakota Democratic Convention

I had wanted to break some of this down into two or three posts but WiFi in the meeting area was spotty. I probably should have written a post or two instead of taking notes last night during the banquet. Rookie mistake. Here in condensed form are observations that would have been made into whole posts had the tech gods and my inexperience at blogging live events not prevented it.

First, R.T. Rybak's speech last night indicated that Democrats, at least on the national stage, have developed a way to speak about values naturally without sounding defensive. In fact, R.T. Rybak's speech could easily have been turned into a standard Lincoln-Douglas debate case. (in South Dakota high school debate, Lincoln Douglas debate is about values and principles.) Rybak began by valuing the social compact, offered a criterion of communitarianism, followed by the contention that the fundamental reason one has for becoming a Democrat is the belief that in tough times people come together whereas Republicans believe that one must go it alone during tough times. Arguing that the Democratic belief represents South Dakota's real values, Rybak contended that those values belong in Pierre. It was a simple, clear case that was eloquently delivered

Second, I expected to see more anger or more red meat. Rick Weiland alluded to an anger on the prairie in his speech, but that was the only mention. Instead there seemed to be a bit of self recrimination that the party had strayed too far from the practices of George McGovern and needed to return to first principles. No speaker offered a concrete "how" unless one takes Rybak's injunction to talk to voters in "real English." Perhaps that's just as well. The issues that anger me the most, the national security state or top down education policies that are unproven and untested, have had bipartisan support.

Third, The argument that current economic policies are causing young people to leave the state and not return seems to have a special salience for South Dakota Democrats. Many seem to believe those who leave and permanently reside elsewhere tend to be Democrats or at least sympathetic to Democratic issues.

Fourth, I can see why party leaders believe Angelia Schultz is a rising star. She has energy and charisma. She is able to provide her extensive resume without sounding as if she's bragging.  Further, she's able to deliver powerful lines within a speech, especially parallel constructions, without sounding forced.  Most importantly, the simple message that electing Krebs means the office will be headed by a different person but will have the same problems should gain traction. I retain the concerns I expressed here.

Fifth, I was a little surprised that most speakers had trouble delivering parallel constructions in a way that sounded natural. That sort of rhetoric has been around long before President Kennedy delivered his "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country . . .:  When those phrases are delivered well it's effective. A couple of Weiland staffers did an enthusiastic high-five after Weiland nailed his conclusion.

Sixth, Pat Powers protestations to the contrary, this was not a collection of elitists unless one considers South Dakotans from all walks of life elitists. The convention had a low turnout. I was just an observer, so I don't know why numbers were down.

Seventh, conventions need to do away with the resolution process. The platform needs to be discussed and debated, but  I watched the eyes of every person under 30 glass over as the resolution process continued. Given that the Republican debate on resolutions made their convention run hours late last weekend, I suspect more than a few eyes glassed over there as well. I'm very proud of several former students who were active with Democrats this week. I am equally proud of any who may have participated in the Republican convention last weekend. South Dakota needs smart young leaders. Spending hours on resolutions that have no direct policy impact, or worse, resolutions that make it seem that the state is led by vindictive, small-minded political hacks (yes, I'm talking about the impeachment resolution) need to go the way of the dodo. If the issue is important find a way to work it in the platform. One debate about language and procedure per convention is more than enough.

Eighth, if the Democrats made any unforced errors this weekend, it was leaving the state auditor race and the state attorney general race uncontested. A minority party should always fight for watchdog positions. Uncontested races in general are problematic, but a majority of voters within the state probably don't know there's a commissioner of school and public lands.

Earlier posts about the 2014 Democratic convention can be found here and here


Vargo said...

AG is really not a very partisan race...unless you approach it like Eric Holder does and only enforce the laws you approve of. Considering that all 66 State's Attorneys, Republican and Democrat alike, endorsed Jackley, I would say there is no shame in not nominating an opponent.

Kal Lis said...

When I saw "Vargo said" I expected a comment about LD case construction.

To play devil's adbocate for a bit, I doubt Janklow viewed any position in a non-partisan fashion,

It might not have been competitive and perhaps the decision was made to concentrate resources elsewhere.

Still, I'll stand by the point that the office does have investigative ability and in a when one party dominated, the minority should fight for the ability to fully investigate wrongdoing.

Sorry I couldn't help you recruit a debater. Today was a tough day to talk to the Pennington County folk who were stationed in the middle of the room

Kal Lis said...

"in a state where one party dominates"

Typing skills are totally gone

caheidelberger said...

In the election year of GOED/EB-5, the Democrats leave the two big watchdog positions, attorney general and state auditor, uncontested. Does that mean Democrats have decided the GOED/EB-5 scandal is dead?

Does the party still have an option to place anyone on the ballot in those two positions before ballots are printed in August?

Kal Lis said...

I don't know. Their constitution says
the Convention delegates shall adopt a State Party platform. [SDCL 12-5-19 Repealed SL 2007 Ch. 14 Sec. 13]

The State Convention shall nominate candidates for Lieutenant Governor, and other constitutional offices as proposed by the pre-convention caucus.. In the years when a President of the United States is to be elected, the Convention shall nominate Presidential Electors and National Committeewoman and Committeeman of the Party.

Nominations shall be made by majority vote of the votes cast, and shall be certified to the Secretary of State by the officials of the Convention, immediately at the close of the Convention.

That seems to imply no. I don't know if an independent can still run and Dems could endorse.

larry kurtz said...

Leo: thank you for participating in the convention and for putting up the posts about it. The experience has yet to entirely sink into my typing fingers so Displaced Plainsman will have to be the definitive chronicle for now.

All the best to you, Sir.

Kal Lis said...

All the best to you as well, Larry. I think the convention both revealed and produced ambivalence that will take time to sort out for both the Democratic party and observers.