KELO Radio’s Todd Epp dubs the upcoming South Dakota Democratic Party McGovern Day meeting “The Night of Long Butter Knives.” He says that if the proposed party constitution changes and snap election really are a coup, then the plotters trumpeting the coup had better win:
I hope you are more Vladimir Lenin than Alexander Kerensky in pulling this off. Because if you lose, you’ll be burnt toast in the South Dakota Democratic Party for the foreseeable future, sent off to a political Siberia [Todd Epp, “Democrats: Beware of McGovern Day and the Night of Long Butter Knives!” KELO Radio: Token Liberal, 2017.04.26].
Epp forgets: South Dakota is already the gulag for Democrats. Pass the butter, comrade!
Epp appears to share my concern that, amidst calls for new leadership in the SDDP, no one has publicly offered names or plans for that new leadership. (Remember the names of the guys who overthrew Gorbachev? Neither do I!)
If the Night of Long Butter Knives actually occurs, it could put the state party in a better position. God knows we can’t do any worse, could we? But as is often the case for South Dakota Democrats, just when you thought it wasn’t possible to go any lower, we sink deeper into the prairie gumbo because we will have no chair and no plan and just a bunch of ticked off Democrats [Epp, 2017.04.26].
A friend of the blog asked me this morning to envision the best possible outcome of Saturday’s votes. The best possible outcome is not a person but a plan. We’ve talked about all sorts of components of a serious Democratic offensive on this blog—voter registration, letter-writing, field offices, clear messaging on kitchen-table economics. Based on some notes I took and shared after the election, here’s a plan of action for reviving the South Dakota Democratic Party:
- Split the office: instead of concentrating in Sioux Falls, base the exec there, then base other staff in field offices in Rapid City and Aberdeen. All staff have same job: field organizing, building county parties in designated region, fundraising, and registering voters.
- Give each field office some level of autonomy for regional activities.
- Organize party dinners in every county as an opportunity to (a) register new voters, (b) give Democrats an opportunity to get face time with voters and the press (yes, the events should be open to the press), and (c) raise money.
- For every fancy, big-ticket fundraiser like McGovern Day, hold two low-ticket/no-ticket hot dog picnics or spaghetti feeds to attract students, blue-collar workers, retirees, and other regular folks who find $100 a plate too pricey for any meal. Recruit big-name Dems like Keith Ellison, Al Franken, and Bernie Sanders to come speak at those low-ticket events as surely as we recruit them for banner events like McGovern Day and the convention. And at the door, register voters.
- Deploy multiple visible, forceful leaders to demand media coverage every week. These don’t all have to be candidates, just a team of local experts in each newspaper/radio market who can speak to various issues in the media. Send that list of local experts to TV and each local paper and radio station and say that every time they quote Thune/Rounds/Noem/Daugaard/Krebs/local GOP legislators, these Democratic experts are available for comment to provide balance to every story.
- When the local press don’t call us, we call them: those local experts put at least one letter in the local paper every week.
- Include these local leaders in regular, short, punchy videos boosted on Facebook: strong 30-second/1-minute content with real faces selling our platform, policies, people, and brand.
- Pursue ballot measure synergy:
- Get behind one winning initiative petition in 2017 and conduct strong, attention-grabbing petition activities from the new Democratic field offices in conjunction with voter registration drives and other activities.
- Be on alert for opportunity to refer one law from 2018 Session and continue visible, attention-grabbing petition activity in spring 2018 alongside primary activity.
- Encourage gubernatorial and legislative candidates (and, if relevant to the sought office, SOS/AG/etc. candidates) to campaign on the Democratic-endorsed ballot measure(s).
- Make the voter database available to every filed candidate; pay for access with state-level fundraising.
- Recruit candidates from Governor and U.S. House on down who are committed to the idea that they can win in November 2018 and who will throw punches to do so. No caution, no triangulation—we choose candidates who build the Democratic brand and run on it without apology.
- Organize early (start week of early voting) targeted door-to-door campaigning for candidates in every urban district.
- Organize early targeted phone-banking for candidates in every rural district. Goal: ensure contact with 5,000 voters in every district.
- Renew tribal outreach with fundraising pitches aimed specifically at funding specific projects like GOTV buses and chili feeds on the reservations.
- Target every RV mailbox center in South Dakota with direct mail and/or calls.
That’s a lot of action (and I can think of more), but Democratic revival here in Siberia won’t happen by itself.
Who emerges from McGovern Day as Democratic Party chair matters far less than what our chair, executive board, and central committee are willing to do to win in 2018. The best possible outcome is that everyone meets, speaks, and departs as allies united around a common plan of action. Anyone who talks about anything other than our practical goals and action, anyone who gripes and moans about personal grievances, should be slapped back to reality or, if they keep griping and moaning, thrown out as snacks for the David Horowitz wolves that the Lederman spin blog is so sweatily and effectively pitching. Gripers and moaners add no value to the party; doers do.
Butter your bread, Democrats, and let’s get to work!