While Al Novstrup campaigns from inside a tin can, his party leaders are responding to Donald Trump’s winking threat to throw our democratic process into chaos. KELO Radio gathers comment from five top South Dakota Republicans on the integrity of our elections. None mentions their doomed (and party-dooming?) Presidential nominee by name, and only Thune has the courage to tiptoe up to the bull in their China shop and obliquely criticize his baseless accusations of election-rigging:
U.S. Sen. John Thune: “Voters have every right to be vigilant in looking out for fraud, but I have confidence in the state and county officials here in South Dakota to do everything they can to ensure our elections are fair. The American electoral process is the cornerstone of our democracy. Suggesting otherwise undermines an electoral system that is a model for nations around the world” [Todd Epp, “S.D. GOP Leaders on Trump’s Electoral Assault,” KELO Radio, 2016.10.21].
Senator Rounds and, less faintly, Rep. Kristi Noem, still warn that there could be some substance to Trump’s alarmist allegations, but not in South Dakota:
U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds: “Sen. Rounds has faith in the voters and South Dakota’s election process. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy that must be fiercely protected. The sun will rise after this and every other election, and we need to stay focused on the important issues, no matter what the results of the election.”
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem: “Free and fair elections are at the heart of the American democracy. Without question, we must remain vigilant to guard against voter fraud in order to maintain voters’ confidence in our electoral system, but election officials in South Dakota have worked hard to protect the integrity of our state’s elections and I believe South Dakota voters can trust their votes will be properly counted on November 8” [Epp, 2016.10.21].
Governor Dennis Daugaard says something at best trite and at worst incoherent about media and relativism that avoids the point that its not the media but the Presidential candidate he plans to vote for who is spouting tyrannical nonsense:
Gov. Dennis Daugaard: “South Dakota can be very proud of the reliability and integrity of our state’s election system. Certainly different media outlets present different perspectives on the candidates and issues, but South Dakotans can be confident that the votes they cast are counted fairly and accurately” [Epp, 2016.10.21].
That Sioux Falls paper gives a different response from the Governor, which also misses the mark:
“Assuming there is a clear result, I think Trump should accept it,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement. “But I’m confident the American people will accept it, and that is what really matters” [Dana Ferguson, “Republican Leaders: Trump Comments Undermine ‘Cornerstone of Our Democracy’,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.10.20].
Governor Daugaard deflects on three levels:
- “I think”—there’s no “think” to this. The need to accept the results of the Presidential election is not a matter of personal opinion or to which different thinkers can come to different conclusions. It is a clear, objective, moral imperative: Trump should accept the results.
- “Assuming there is a clear result”—there’s no “assuming” here. There will be a clear result, as surely as there was in 2000. We will count the votes. We will recount votes if totals fall within legally specified ranges. The process will play itself out, and we will have final, legal, and clear results. Every candidate must agree to accept those results.
- “the American people will accept it, and that is what really matters”—that wasn’t the question, Governor Daugaard. What really matters here is that your Presidential nominee is stoking rage in his crowds by saying he’ll only accept the results if he wins. Trump is encouraging a big chunk of the American people to think that they don’t have to accept the results of the election. That is irresponsible, and it is irresponsible not to call Trump out directly for undermining faith in democracy.
Attorney General Marty Jackley keeps it simple:
S.D. Attorney General Marty Jackley: “I am confident that our state and county election officials and volunteers will conduct a fair election” [Epp, 2016.10.21].
Note the regular evasion by all of the above “leaders” that says South Dakota can conduct the election with integrity but leaves open the question of whether elections are rigged in Philadelphia, Chicago, and elsewhere. Trump’s assault on democracy requires more than parochialism. It requires an affirmation that all Americans can count on a free and fair election.
Senator Thune and Governor Daugaard had the admirable courage, for a couple days, to almost repudiate Donald Trump’s candidacy over the nominee’s bragging about sexual assault. But now, faced with political statements that even more clearly disqualify Trump from participation in the election, Thune, Daugaard, and their fellow GOP leaders find the courage to say, “Presidents don’t act like this.”
In a way, Governor Daugaard is right that what we voters say is what really matters. Absent true moral leadership from the SDGOP, it falls to us voters to ensure a clear election result that repudiates Trump by such a stunning margin that the law will allow no recounts and the public and courts will laugh at any claims of election-rigging.
And Senator Thune, Governor Daugaard, and Republican friends: Vote Johnson!