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.