Lacking any real news to discuss, Pat Powers recycles the fact that no Democrat has entered next year’s U.S. Senate race into another gleeful chortling over Senator John Thune’s huge war chest and potential second free pass. Pretending to tell us something new (which is the point of useful blogging), Powers says anyone who challenges Thune will face scrutiny:
Candidates for constitutional office contests don’t face 1/4 of the scrutiny that candidates for US Congress or US Senate face. Whoever runs can expect to have their life paraded on a statewide stage and used as fodder, including their driving record, criminal history, and any legal entangements. Any current or former employees will be spoken with for dirt to be dug up.
And it’s not a threat directed at anyone in particular. In the 24 hour news cycle, that’s just the environment candidates are going to have to be aware of and to compete in, even in ‘nice’ South Dakota.
Any candidate chose by Democrats to represent their party aren’t just going to have to contend with facing a popular opponent who has 10.3 million in the bank. They’re also going to be facing themselves, and whatever feet of clay they might have [Pat Powers, “Thune Faces Possibility of Historic 2nd Free Pass. But Then Again, Who Wants to Put Themselves up for the Scrutiny?”Dakota War College, 2015.07.30].
Beyond triteness, this passage carries two important flaws. First, click on the examples of “life-parading fodder” Powers gives. He mentions Kristi Noem’s poor driving record. That’s the only example of a serious candidate on his list. The other two are a nowheresville Libertarian candidate from Kansas and South Dakota’s scandalous and now convicted Senate pretender Annette Bosworth. Criminal records and abusive employment practices aren’t just “fodder” or “dirt”—they are valid indictments of a candidate’s character and ability to uphold the public trust.
More importantly, notice how Powers portrays this “dirt-digging” as a product of the media, the 24-hour news cycle, and “not a threat.” Notice which mudslingers he does not mention: John Thune and the South Dakota Republican Party. Cue Dr. Newquist:
When Thune challenged Tom Daschle in 2004, he hired Dick Wadhams as the campaign manager and dutifully recited the scripts Wadham supplied him with. Wadhams returned to the state as a campaign advisor to Mike Rounds and is now employed by the state Republican Party. Thune had acquired a record in the House of Representatives that was feckless and lacking in accomplishment. To challenge Tom Daschle, who is a highly accomplished legislator, he could not afford a comparison of records or stances on the issues.
The strategy was to avoid issues, policies, and legislative record and accomplishment and attack Daschle personally. A most successful ploy was to play to the resentment among South Dakotans of anyone who has accrued success and recognition outside the boundaries of the state. The Thune campaign played up Tom Daschle’s attaining the majority leader of the Senate as an abandonment of the people of the state for the culture of Washington, D.C ., and declared it as his major residence. He still owned and returned to his house Aberdeen, where his mother lived when he returned to the state. The campaign also attacked the press for the coverage it gave to the Senator and Senate majority and played up the assumption the press had liberal leanings and gave Tom Daschle partial treatment. Then it attacked Daschle because his wife who was a successful [lobbyist] for the airline industry had once been a beauty queen for whom, the campaign implied, he abandoned his first wife. The Thune campaign also knew that Daschle is of a principled character that would not engage these personal assaults in kind.
The Thune campaign hired a history professor of the neocon bias at South Dakota State to write a blog dedicated to the character assassination of Tom Daschle, In 2004, blogs were a recent development and very few people in the general public were aware of or read them. The anti-Daschle blog gave voice to the campaign strategy that Thune and his surrogates were covering the state with. The character assassination went so far that during a television debate show Thune accused Daschle of giving aid and comfort to the enemy for his opposition to the war in Iraq. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is how the Constitution defines treason. The Thune campaign also portrayed Daschle’s opposition to a Constituional amendment forbidding flag desecration as limiting free speech and because laws were already on the books dealing with the matter as an unpatriotic betrayal. This imposed on a man who served in the Air Force as an intelligence officer from a man who had no military service [David Newquist, “A State That Gave up Politics for Character Assassination and Petty Hatred,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.07.10].
The fault here is not in our feet of clay but in the mud John Thune and the SDGOP choose to throw to bog down any candidate who rises to what should be the easy challenge of pointing out the utter non-performance of South Dakota’s entire Republican Congressional delegation. Democrats can run candidates of sterling character, talent, and achievement, and the South Dakota Republican Party will use Wadhams, Powers, and all other available tools to fabricate assaults.
“Not a threat directed at anyone in particular”? You’ve got that right. John Thune and the South Dakota Republican Party promise to wage all-out character warfare and distraction theater against anyone who challenges the party line. Decent, honest, capable individuals generally don’t want to put up with such unconstructive insult and injury; they don’t want to be part of the “game” that Republicans play to make politics a dirty word and discourage people from participating in their democracy. Good candidates want to serve their state and their country.
But we’re working on it. And there’s no rush. Be patient; there’s no rush.