Maxwell defines the problem very specifically. Multinational corporations have monopolized the entire agricultural sector, from seeds to livestock, produce to dairy, and everything in between. Even a farmer’s financial institutions have consolidated.
…When farmers are paid less and consumers pay more, middlemen producers enjoy massive profits. But industrial agriculture also destroys soils and pollutes streams. Giant feedlots are environmental nightmares that drive down local property values and destroy the tax base. Routine animal cruelty flowers from concentrated ownership. When wealth leaks out to corporations instead of staying locally, communities suffer and despair leads to drug and alcohol abuse. And consumers lack the diversity of different foods [David Dayen, “Democrats Can Win Rural Voters by Taking on Big Agriculture,” The Nation, 2017.08.16].
Identifying the corporate power that holds back farm communities could revive Democratic fortunes. Obviously, there are huge cultural barriers dividing Democrats from these areas, dominated by a media that paints them in the worst possible light. But the answer to that isn’t to walk away from the region, or present Republican-lite “moderates” who line up with corporate interests; it lies in showing farmers you stand with them, not the monopolists [Dayen, 2017.08.16].
Also descending on Brookings later this month are Democrats—yes, Democrats!—pursuing their dreams of victory in 2018. The Brookings County Democrats are hosting their annual picnic on Thursday, August 24, at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Life Center of the First United Methodist Church on the corner of 6th St. and 7th Ave.
Speaking to the Brookings picnickers will be Senator Billie Sutton, who is running for South Dakota Governor, and Tim Bjorkman, who is running for U.S. House. The Brookings Dems will also offer door prizes, t-shirts for sale, and initiative petitions to sign.
The Brookings County Democrats picnic is (attention, new Jackrabbits!) free and open to the public. But if you’re able, help out the cause by bringing a dish to pass and an item to donate to the Brookings County Food Pantry.
Looking for some good food, good drinks, and some good conversation? Join us at the Broadwater Bar on the north side of Lake Madison on August 8th, at 6 pm, for a progressive mixer where you can visit and commiserate with folks on the issues of the day! [Lake County Democrats, Progressive Mixer invite, Facebook, retrieved 2017.08.02]
Commiserate? Try collaborate, conspire, and come up with candidates and courses of action to kick Trumpublicans out of office!
The Libertarians, Constitutionists, and Others together still make up only 0.55% of the registered electorate. Republicans make up 46.21% of the registered electorate. Democrats have sunk to 30.63%. Independents have risen to 22.60%.
Since their peak in July 2009 (you know, the good old day, when we had a couple of courageous members of Congress and a knowledgeable, articulate President), South Dakota Democrats have lost 37,829 registered voters, a decline of 18.36%. Over the same eight years, the number of independent voters has increased by 37,830, a gain of 43.83%. (Be careful: in 2009, SOS Nelson reported indies and other non-GOP/Dems all in one column, so the comparison is not perfect.) Since July 2009, South Dakota Republicans have added 11,045 to their rolls, while the number of active registered voters has increased by 12,649.
Sutton and Bjorkman both launched their campaigns on their home turf—Sutton out in Gregory County, Bjorkman in Canistota—which means neither launched in a major media center. But the Sutton event was clearly designed to accommodate the statewide media who would make the drive. Team Sutton staged its show on a Wednesday at 11 a.m., allowing plenty of time for reporters from Sioux Falls and Rapid City to drive to the Sutton Ranch and still get home in time to file for the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news. Team Sutton set up a flatbed trailer behind the crowd to give the press good camera angles. The campaign distributed signs during the show to enhance the visuals. The campaign incentivized attendance with a tease: they didn’t say for which office Sutton was declaring, meaning reporters wanting the first headline or Tweet had to be at the event.
Team Bjorkman didn’t tease us with any, “Will Tim go for House or primary Billie?” Bjorkman declared for House on Monday. Nor did Bjorkman’s launch lean toward the media in the other ways Sutton’s did. Team Bjorkman scheduled his launch for Thursday at 6 p.m.—good for friends and neighbors getting off work, but rotten for reporters who have to hustle after hours to make the 10 p.m. TV deadline or the print deadline for Friday’s paper. There was no flatbed or special media section; camera operators just grabbed the best free patches of grass they could find among the crowd. I didn’t see any campaigners handing out signs, though volunteers from out of town brought some well-used signs from this year’s frequent Resistance activities.
The Bjorkman campaign did appear to have a leg up on the Sutton campaign with handouts. When I parked down the street and started getting my gear out of my car, one member of a crew of very young volunteers approached and offered a Tim Bjorkman for Congress bumper sticker. Volunteers were also manning a sign-up table and handing out smaller shirt stickers, which were donned by numerous attendees. I arrived later at the Sutton event, so maybe I missed their handouts, but I didn’t see bumper stickers at the ranch. (But I was also mistaken about the composition of Sutton’s beef sandwiches, so I welcome correction!)
While both men downplayed partisan politics, the speakers at each event showed that Team Sutton was more consciously targeting a statewide Democratic audience. Introducing Sutton were three South Dakotans well known in Democratic circles: Sutton’s wife and Gregory County commissioner Kelsea Kenzy Sutton, former legislator Bernie Hunhoff, and former Texas Congressman Max Sandlin, who is now a Sioux Falls guy and husband of our former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Bjorkman’s introducers were more local and personal: his sister Nancy Pulford, his neighbor and former Canistota school superintendent Keith Ligtenberg, and his friend and local grocery entrepreneur Jeff Nielsen. Bjorkman’s speakers basically said, “We know and love Tim.” Sutton’s speakers said the same thing, but they sent an additional message. The presence of Hunhoff and Sandlin said, Billie is the Party’s guy. Primary him at your peril.
Bjorkman mustered a bigger crowd than Sutton. I guesstimated 130 at Sutton’s launch and 170 at Bjorkman’s. South Dakota Democratic Party chair Ann Tornberg attended both campaign kick-offs, as did prominent former Democratic legislator Scott Parsley from Madison. While my face-count is far from comprehensive, I saw a few more Democratic colleagues and candidates in Sutton’s crowd. Sutton drew folks like Mark Winegar and Quinten Burg, while Bjorkman drew former legislators Rod Hall and Frank Kloucek. Bjorkman’s crowd included a contingent of Sioux Falls Democratic Forum regulars. Bjorkman also drew the attendance of Republican District 25 Representative Tom Pischke and an observer from the Daugaard Administration… although I think those two Republicans were just in town for Canistota Sport Days.
Sutton’s launch clearly played up his rural credentials—at the ranch, Missouri River bluffs and boundless sky in the background, hay bales for seating, Sutton beef for lunch. The Sutton crowd was also rich with cowboy hats. I saw one cowboy hat in Canistota, and that was on Bjorkman’s son John. Bjorkman’s Canistota setting was far from urban, at the small-town veterans monument, in front of their small-town K-12 school, just up their small-town Main Street from the Sport Days carnival rides as they started up. (Patrick Lalley still would have called it too rural.)
But looking at the candidates themselves, you’d have taken Bjorkman for the more rural man. Sutton the cowboy left his hat on the ground and spoke in a dark business suit. Even with no necktie, Sutton was still a bit fancy for the local bar. Not Bjorkman: the former judge stepped out in broken-in jeans and a short-sleeved checkered shirt, closer to the regular rural guy many South Dakotans fancy themselves to be. Now there’s an argument to be had about dressing for the job for which one is applying, but there’s enough polo shirt and blue jeanery going on among our Congressional candidates for that argument to make much of a difference.
These observations about the optics of Sutton’s and Bjorkman’s campaign kick-offs probably won’t amount to a hill of beans in determining whether they win on Election Day (lo! these many months from now). But they do suggest that, out of the gate, the Sutton campaign is more attuned to the press and perhaps the dynamics of intra-party politics. I don’t mean to say that tuning a good thing; I just mean to say that tuning is a thing.
…both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, who are responsible for carrying out elections in many states, said they have been frustrated in recent months by a lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian meddling with the vote. They say that despite the best efforts by federal officials, it may be too late in to make substantive changes.
“I’m doubtful,” said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat. “We shouldn’t feel like we’ve been tied to a chair and blindfolded … It’s very hard to help further instill public confidence that you know what you’re doing if you don’t have any information” [Brian, Slodysko, “State Election Officials Worry About 2018 Election Security,” Associated Press, 2017.07.09].
In the short term, South Dakotans concerned about election security may want to make sure Dusty Johnson wins the GOP U.S. House primary so his challenger, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, can get back off the campaign trail and focus on running the 2018 general election. In the slightly longer term, a smart Democrat with a passion for election law and technology should seize the opportunity to grab the issue of election security and run for Krebs’s job.
Russian hacking and Trump’s data overreach offer a Democrat an opportunity to launch the usually quieter contest for Secretary of State into major headlines. The race offers the opportunity to offer South Dakotans a platform of protecting the integrity of our votes from any bad actors, foreign and domestic:
Check out the latest Dakota Free Press Podcast! Co-host Spencer Dobson takes an Independence Day break, so Episode #18 is a solo show with my speech this noon to the District 22 Democratic Forum in Huron. I’ve made a few edits for time and audibility, and my mic didn’t quite pick up all of the questions, but most of the program is there.
Dakota Free Press hits the road tomorrow! The District 22 Democratic Forum has invited me to speak at their noon lunch at the Huron Event Center attached to the Crossroads at 100 4th Street Southwest downtown.
I’m open to suggestions—if there’s another topic you’d like me to work into my 20-minute oration, let me know here in the comment section. Or if you’re within driving distance, come have lunch with the District 22 Democrats in Huron and grill me during the question-and-answer period. I promise to be more fun and informative than Kristi Noem was in Rapid City today!
*Update 2017.07.01 13:22 CDT: The original notice I received said the Noem town hall would start at 10 a.m.; eager reader Susan below reports the time has been changed to 9:30 a.m. Arrive early, get a good seat!