Democratic House Candidate Svarstad Attacks McGovern and Obama

Chris Svarstad
Chris Svarstad

Pat Powers has gleefully documented Democratic District 18 House candidate Chris Svarstad’s arrest record, as well as Svarstad’s apparent easy distraction. But a couple of Svarstad’s online comments may distract Democratic voters from whatever message Svarstad hopes to pitch them in his primary against Democrats David Allen and Peter Rossiter.

On March 10, District 18 Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) shared rancher Paul Seamans’s Facebook post noting Willie Nelson’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders (Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Republicans…). The next morning, Svarstad, who flies a photo of Hillary Clinton for his Facebook banner and says he managed Hunhoff’s 2014 campaign, responded with concerns that a President Sanders would mean “Lots of free stuff. Driving up the national debt,” and expressed his hope that “this nation doesn’t turn into the Soviet Union. Don’t forget the hammer and sickle.”

Svarstad’s rhetoric against Sanders is no harsher than some of the wild vitriol I hear Sanders people throwing at Clinton. But Svarstad also compared Bernie Sanders to George McGovern:

Chris Svarstad, Facebook comment, 2016.03.11.
Chris Svarstad, Facebook comment, 2016.03.11.

“That’ll be the scene after the old man gets bear by the Republicans George McGovern style. Same thing, different bat s— old fool.”

There’s nothing wrong with reminding us that Nixon clobbered McGovern and that a Sanders nomination could take Democrats down the same path (if you can effectively liken incumbent President Richard Nixon to any of the potential mostly unpopular Republican candidates in any way other than noting that Nixon and Ted Cruz both have unflattering noses… and Svarstad gives that historical analysis a shot in this thoughtful March 12 Medium article). There’s a minor generational quibble to have with referring to 1972 McGovern as “old”, given that he was 50 at the time, relatively young compared to U.S. Presidents.

But to call George McGovern a “bat s— old fool” probably gets you thrown out of the South Dakota Democratic Party’s McGovern Day Dinner.

On March 9, Svarstad used his own Facebook page to attack President Barack Obama for not attending Nancy Reagan’s funeral:

Chris Svarstad, Facebook post, 2016.03.09.
Chris Svarstad, Facebook post, 2016.03.09.

Svarstad’s verbatim copying of tweets from three Fox News commentators ignores the rules of good writing (no quote marks, no sourcing—that’s plagiarism) and history:

Carping that President Obama dishonored Mrs. Reagan by not attending her funeral, is the result of historical ignorance. The last time an incumbent President attended the funeral of a former First Lady was the 1962 one of Eleanor Roosevelt, as much due to her power within the Democratic Party as her being the widow of a past president. The only other three occasions where an incumbent President did so were Theodore Roosevelt’s attendance at those of Ida McKinley in 1907 and Julia Grant in 1902, and Zachary Taylor’s attendance at that of Dolley Madison in 1849 [Carl Anthony, “Nancy Reagan’s Funeral Follows First Lady Tradition,” Carl Anthony Online, 2016.03.10].

Svarstad is on record declaring President Obama a “liability” to South Dakota Democrats (an opinion I’ve heard other South Dakota Democrats express) and has tacked rightward with his condemnation of the Affordable Care Act and his support for the Keystone XL pipeline. Criticizing the President on those policies might be acceptable political strategy for someone trying to resuscitate the Blue Dog label, but adopting Fox News tweet-bleats about the President’s alleged pettiness splashes more of that paint on oneself than the wall.

Svarstad is not an old fool—he has some sensible things to say about the Koch brothers and the threat of corporate fascism. But he’ll be a sad, sad man come June 7 if the Democratic base—also known as the folks voting in the primary—hears more of these unnecessary and ill-informed attacks on icons of the Democratic Party.

37 Responses to Democratic House Candidate Svarstad Attacks McGovern and Obama

  1. owen reitzel

    I might disagree with Svarstad on some of his views but I’d have to tolerate them. If not, I’m no better then the Republican far right who call moderate Republicans RINOS and Democrats.
    However, ripping McGovern is another matter. Time for Svarstad to go.

  2. I rather liked Mr. Nixon’s nose. I found it sexy in that I had a manly sort of affection for his nose. Mr. Nixon’s. Damn fine nose.

  3. mike from iowa

    Someone who posts here regularly tells libs they have to become wingnuts to get elected in South Dakota. Apparently this guy ate that blarney stone and maybe the author,too.

    Scalia’s funeral had fawners,not mourners.

  4. Most libbies have to go insaner than ever to get elected in South Dakota.

  5. Obama is a huge liability to anybody running for office as a registered Democrat in South Dakota.

  6. mike from iowa

    Not because of Obama’s actual record, Grudz.

  7. Robin Friday

    Who really cares that President Obama didn’t attend Nancy Reagan’s funeral? Not me–or anyone else I know. Who cares if someone who pretends to be a Democrat disses McGovern and Obama? NOW I care. I knew George McGovern, I worked for George McGovern–and Mr. Svarstad, you’re no George McGovern.

  8. Donald Pay

    I’d run with Obama any day. Oh, wait, I forgot. Obama is black. Yeah, better not be seen with THAT ONE in South Dakota. Too much racism there for facts to overcome.

    Obama saved the country from a Republican depression. He could have gotten the economy churning faster had Republicans cared to help. The American auto industry under Republicans would be in Mexico and China. Obamacare is well on its way to being the best thing enacted since Medicare, and it could be made even better except that Republicans have no interest in the health of ordinary Americans. The Middle East probably is in a lot better state than it would have been had McCain been elected, even though I admit Obama’s Middle East policy has been a mixed bag. But, after all, anyone following Bush 43 was going to have a mess on their hands. The Iran nuclear deal will go down as one of the best foreign policy moves this century. Compare Obama to Reagan or Bush 43, and Obama’s administration has been remarkably free of scandal and corruption. Can’t say that about Republican government in South Dakota, now can we?

  9. mike from iowa

    and Obama’s administration has been remarkably free of scandal and corruption. Can’t say that about Republican government in South Dakota, now can we?

    Well,yeah you can say that about wingnut’s governance. It wouldn’t be true, but the entire wingnut party seems to be living in denial.

  10. If Mr Svarstad wants to be a republican, maybe he should run as one, he sure sounds like one.

  11. You might be right, Mike, who is from Iowa. I think most people in South Dakota just hate Obama because of his obvious heinous actions, if they knew of all of them then there wouldn’t be single Democrat Party member in the legislatures in this state.

  12. David Newquist

    Svarstad, like Trump, has put his defects of intellect and character out there for all to see, but that there are those of similar levels of mind and personalty for whom they supply a voice. They do help us understand something of the mentalities to which ISIS appeals.

  13. mike from iowa

    Why do I get the feeling your definition of heinous actions will be the polar opposite of my definition?

  14. Because I am a South Dakotan, Mike, and you are from Iowa.

  15. owen reitzel

    “I think most people in South Dakota just hate Obama because of his obvious heinous actions, if they knew of all of them then there wouldn’t be single Democrat Party member in the legislatures in this state.”

    I agree Grud. Unemployment at 5% (was at 10%) stock market way up, more people have health insurance that didn’t before, out of Iraq (which we never should in anyway)…….. That damn Obama. Terrible

  16. That’s all due to the Republican leadership in the sensible states.

  17. Fortunately Democrats in that legislative district will have a primary to choose the two best candidates to advance to the general election. We may not have Mr. Svarstad and his checkered past to kick around anymore after June.

  18. The topic at hand is Mr. Svarstad, and I think he’s going to make a fine candidate. grudznick seal of approval bestowed.

  19. DeeJayBeejr

    I have known Chris for some time. I hadn’t heard until recently he was back in Yankton. Although I have experience with him being asked to leave one church, I was aware that he had been asked to leave several other churches there, as well. Cory, you might be interested that he told me once he was a Lincoln-Douglas debate State Champion from Aberdeen High School. His sense of what he thinks is real and what I know as reality are not the same. I always believed the young man had some mental health problems, and to give him any press on this blog is doing the blog a disservice. He will go away on his own. I doubt that he will get 2 percent of the vote in the primary. I am sure the people of Yankton will ignore his antics, as well as his candidacy. However, one good thing he is doing is keeping the names of the other District 18 candidates in the public eye, since they will now have an election prior to November. But I would imagine that the Yankton Democrats won’t even hold any debates or forums for their primary candidates, as they know Rossiter and Allen are, essentially, running unopposed.

  20. mike from iowa

    Grudz, I give you credit for not once mentioning Obama’s salad days as a gay prostitute. Others aren’t as kind.

  21. Liberty Dick

    Ask him about his support for Rounds over Weiland as well…

  22. Roger Cornelius

    How does a Democrat go about making a financial contribution to a republican opponent of Svarstad?

  23. Roger Cornelius

    grudz, you aren’t even amusing tonight, go to bed.

  24. Mr. C, it’s always amusing when I get your goat. But off to bed I was a few hours ago. Got another case of the peripheral edema again, and they tell me I have to stay hunkered again.

    Mr. Obama really does rile some of you fellows up, so I hope you’ll be able to attend next week when I give the breakfast speech on his legacies.

  25. Roger Cornelius

    Regardless of Starvstad, grudz, or anyone else’s opinion, President Obama’s legacy is already being carved in stone.
    His presidency is not yet complete and historians are already finding that he is likely the most relevant president of modern times.
    Historians will eventually drown out the anti-Obama hate speech with his accomplishments under some of the most obstructionism in our nation’s history.
    Oh how much more he could have achieved if only he were not black.

  26. I understand your deep, manly affection for Obama, Mr. C, and I did not mean to denigrate it, my young friend.

  27. DeeJay, if that’s the case, I wish the voters of District 18 would have avoided putting him in the press by signing his petition. Does there come a point where such behavior from a man detached from reality starts having consequences for others that require intervention?

  28. Lanny V Stricherz

    “There’s nothing wrong with reminding us that Nixon clobbered McGovern and that a Sanders nomination could take Democrats down the same path”

    You’re not paying attention Cory. Sanders lead every Republican by a larger margin than does Ms Clinton.

  29. Porter Lansing

    Hear, hear Mssrs. Cornelius and Pay. Of course Redpublicans hate Obama. He’s won on every issue he’s championed. Every conservative has an excuse when they continually lose.

  30. Porter Lansing

    PS … Can you imagine having to spend even a small amount of time with Pat Powers. He’s quite possibly the most repulsive, most foul personality, most totally unlikeable cretin in politics … except for Ted Cruz. Ooooooh! You’d have to hold your nose and avert your eyes.

  31. Gayle Halverson

    I am a South Dakotan and I like President Obama. If democrats in South Dakota see President Obama as a liability then I guess I am an Independent. The Democratic party will never become strong in South Dakota by following the Republican viewpoint.

  32. Not a comment on this situation (I wouldn’t call those comments ‘moderate’) but a thought that occurs.

    Democrats in low-population, very Red States tend to be very liberal, hence why Sanders is likely to pick up SD, just as he picked up lots of similar states (easily predicted on that mystery of mysteries, the demographics). Obviously, though, a very progressive liberal candidate is going to have a lot of general election trouble. I wonder if this dynamic is partly why state colors don’t change, a positive feedback loop that reinforces the ‘identity politics’ status quo… the minority party is more extreme than other states due to those in the Middle likely being with the majority party by default, which means moderate candidates are less likely to proceed to the general. Your average candidate from the minority party will be more extreme than not, which means even moderate candidates who do proceed to the general will be thought of as some faceless liberal by the general electorate, just by association via the party label.

    I’m not certain I see a solution to this conundrum (label-less politics, maybe… or just waiting for the GOP to collapse under its own rhetoric), but its interesting to think about…

  33. If you look at the Democrats in the South Dakota legislature, kingleon, you won’t find very many screaming liberals. Many are pro life. Many have good ratings from the NRA (which itself has abandoned its former moderate positions and become radical right). And many Democratic positions that used to be considered liberal are now majority positions even in states like SD – for instance support for gay marriage.

    South Dakota is more nuanced politically than people realize. After 8 years of a Democratic president people in states like SD are more resistant to the Democratic label than they are to Democratic ideas. When there is a Republican president South Dakota will elect Democrats statewide again. If a Republican wins the presidency this year Kristi Noem will lose her seat in 2018. And Stephanie will win the governorship if she runs.

  34. Porter Lansing

    I sense an underlying distaste for our mantle “liberal”. And where you live the Republican spin-cycle has deliberately promoted that sentiment. Yet most of USA views liberal as a term of compassion, endearment and good graces. Let’s explore. In SoDak most believe the opposite of liberal is “conservative”. However, not really. As a liberal I’m proud that many of my positions are conservative. I’m conservative with money. Conservative with energy. Conservative with nature. But in politics “conservative” is far from the reverse of liberal. It’s too broad of a description to be used politically. More appropriate antonyms for liberal are intolerant, limited, greedy, lacking, mean, narrow-minded, ungenerous and wanting. These eight descriptors fit SoDak Republicans like a collar fits a dog. Snug, all-encompassing and certainly capable of carrying their license for bête noire. So smile when you say “liberal”, pilgrim. It’s what sets us apart from those who complain well but never really accomplish anything that makes South Dakota better for everyone. I’m proud to be a liberal instead of a narrow-minded and ungenerous voter.

  35. Porter Lansing

    Also, as far as the usual complaint from the right the facts show that, Democrats spend money cautiously. Republicans waste money recklessly. “A trillion bucks on a war for what? If that’s not reckless spending what is?”

  36. I’ve received messages from multiple readers like DeeJay saying that Mr. Svarstad is a troubled individual, whose political outbursts we should not analyze or publicize. The multiple comments on this score, as well as the hard-to-square harshnesses Mr. Svarstad writes, lead me to believe them. There apparently is not a political story here. There is a sad personal story, an annoyance that folks in Yankton and folks online have to deal with.

    That should probably be our last public word on the topic.

  37. bearcreekbat

    Excellent and compassionate decision Cory.