District 3 voters have a clear choice on equality and inclusion in their Senate race. In its new 2016 Voters Guide, the Equality South Dakota Political Action Committee endorses me over my opponent, Rep. Al Novstrup. EqSD PAC endorses me based on my “positive” responses to the candidate survey they sent out earlier this summer. Below are EqSD’s four survey questions, with my responses in bold:
I’m proud to have Equality South Dakota’s PAC endorsement. I look forward to fighting for equality for all South Dakotans in the Senate during the 2017 Session.
EqSD issues no recommendation on the District 3 House race. Evidently none of the four candidates, not even my Democratic colleagues Brooks Briscoe and Nikki Bootz, responded to the EqSD survey. Briscoe, Bootz, and Republican Drew Dennert are all newcomers with no voting record. Incumbent Rep. Dan Kaiser missed all but the last day of the 2016 Session, so he has no recorded position on this year’s potty bill or the discriminate-for-Jesus bill. However in the 2015 Session, Rep. Kaiser voted for the anti-transgender and anti-SDHSAA HB 1195 and SB 140.
EqSD PAC’s complete voting guide endorses 44 Legislative candidates: 36 Democratic, 8 Republican. 45 candidates, all Republicans, get EqSD’s explicit non-recommendation. EqSD leaves blank 75 no-info candidates: 42 Dem, 28 GOP, and 5 independent. EqSD gives 11 candidates—1 Dem, 9 GOP, and 1 indy—a “neutral” rating based on “mixed” voting record and/or survey responses.
Only five candidates with voting records responded to the survey. Of those five, only Rep. Dan Dryden (R-34/Rapid City) had different ratings, with a “mixed” voting record but a “positive” survey response. That was enough to earn him EqSD’s recommendation. EqSD also recommends Rep. Dryden’s fellow District 34 GOP House candidate Senator Craig Tieszen. Their Democratic challenger, Steve Stenson, did not respond to the survey and thus is left blank.
Candidate for U.S. House Rep. Paula Hawks did attend SF Pride, and she thanked politically engaged South Dakotans there for helping her and her sensible colleagues in the 2016 Legislature fight “the potty police and Kim Davis wannabes”:
“Equality is a South Dakota value”—that message should resonate with all progressive South Dakotans as well as with our true conservative Libertarian friends who value the liberty of all South Dakotans to live and love as they see fit.
City Councilor Christine Erickson made a motion to withdraw the proposals at the request of City Attorney David Pfeifle, who originally pitched the changes earlier this year but reversed course last week, citing conversations with Attorney General Marty Jackley.
…Pfeifle cited South Dakota’s probable involvement in a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over its interpretation that Title IV laws guarantee transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice, whether based on their biological sex or gender identity [Joe Sneve, “Council Retreats from Anti-Discrimination Updates,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.06.15].
The Sioux Falls City Council seems to know a thing or two about being chicken:
It is somewhat unprecedented for a city to be a trailblazer on an issue like this and usually we look for the state’s direction and also the federal government’s when it comes to an issue of this magnitude. And so we’re really looking for that direction from the state and making sure we are working together as a whole with the state… [Sioux Falls city councillor and former Republican legislator Christine Erickson, quoted in Levi Gutz, “Sioux Falls Tables LGBTQ Ordinance,” SDPB Radio, 2016.06.15].
South Dakota pursues an agenda of regressive discrimination, and our biggest city, which prides itself on leading South Dakota in economic development and quality of life, lets Marty Jackley and the Religious Right set its agenda on equality and justice.
Worldwide, enhancing women’s economic potential has gone hand in hand with achieving greater social gender equality. Based on the relationship between capturing economic opportunity and tackling societal barriers to women’s economic participation, MGI has taken a broad view of gender inequality in the United States using ten indicators of gender equality in work and society. US gender inequality is low or medium on four: labor-force participation rate, professional and technical jobs, higher education, and maternal mortality. Inequality is high or extremely high on six: leadership and managerial positions, unpaid care work, single mothers, teenage pregnancy, political representation, and violence against women. These six should be prioritized as “impact zones” for action. To give an idea of the considerable challenges that the United States faces, there are just 66 women for every 100 men in business leadership and managerial positions, women do almost double the unpaid care work that men do, and there is one incident of sexual violence for every two women in the United States [Kweilin Ellingrud et al., “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States,” McKinsey & Company, April 2016].
One of the routes to gender equality involves no government action at all. All we need is for us guys to watch less football:
The best-in-class scenario assumes that the hours that women work increase from 89 percent to 95 percent of those worked by men, adding, on average, 35 minutes per day, based on an average ten-hour workday. This increase in hours worked by women could be achieved by men allocating more of their leisure time to helping out around the house. Men, on average, spend one hour more each day on leisure activities than women do [Ellingrud et al., April 2016].
If we are to realize Rep. Paula Hawks’s ideal of equal pay for equal work, we need to give women time to do that equal work. We means us, fellas. Turn off the tube, and scrub those dishes!
Supporters of HB 1008 insist that they’re trying to protect privacy, but the ACLU agrees with me that if privacy were the real concern behind HB 1008, our legislators would be mandating lockable toilet stalls and private showers for every student. Single-occupancy facilities would guarantee the privacy of every student washing up at school, without the need for any intrusive inquiry as to any student’s sex or gender.
But HB 1008 isn’t about privacy. It’s about picking on transgender kids. 58 House members voted to keep waging culture war on kids who’d just like to play basketball and potty in peace; 10 House members voted against this bullying. The vote mostly split by party: two Democrats, Rep. Ray Ring of Vermillion and Rep. Dean Schrempp of Lantry, voted to invite a Title IX lawsuit; only one Republican, Rep. Tona Rozum of Mitchell, voted for decency and equal rights.
Elsewhere in the culture war, genital-curious Rep. Roger Hunt renews the Legislature’s attack on the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s consideration for transgender student-athletes. Rep. Hunt’s House Bill 1112 would ban the SDHSAA from adopting any transgender policy. The Legislature rejected two similar bills last year, but picking on vulnerable kids and stroking their faux-faily-value prejudices just feels to good to give up… especially in an election year.
To top it off, Reps. Hunt and Deutsch have signed on with several other culture warriors to House Bill 1107, which would dress up anti-LGBT discrimination as religious freedom. Call it the Kim Davis Bigotry as Public Policy Act: HB 1107 forbids the state from taking any “discriminatory action” against any person (including public employees) for acting on the basis of “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that:
Marriage is or should only be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
Sexual relations are properly reserved to marriage; or
The terms male or man and female or woman refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determined by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”
Every person already has the religious and moral freedom to think that transgender people are just confused or pretending, that homosexuals are vile perverts, and that shagging someone you have not married will send you to Heck (busy place, that Heck). But the state and its employees have no First Amendment right to impose those religious and moral beliefs on individuals seeking public services like marriage licenses, education, and public safety. HB 1107 tells county clerks they can refuse marriage licenses to anyone who doesn’t rise to their moral standards. HB 1107 tells teachers they can discriminate against LGBT students. HB 1107 tells cops they can refuse to respond to a domestic violence call from a transgender or homosexual victim, because hey, it’s God’s will those queers be punished.
You can have vile, bigoted thoughts. You can say vile, bigoted things. But you can’t make vile, bigoted actions public policy. HB 1107 will not stand Constitutional review. Let’s hope it, HB 1112, and HB 1008 will not stand any further Legislative review or, if necessary, the Governor’s review.
The Mitchell Daily Republic publishes the findings of its survey of local churches on gay marriage. Out of 35 churches contacted, only 22 responded. Nineteen said nope, they won’t perform same-sex weddings. Two, both United Church of Christ congregations, said yes, they’ll marry you regardless of your privates. One Presbyterian pastor says she’s cool with same-sex marriage, but her congregation has not taken an official position on the issue.
Reporter Candy DenOuden says that several of the pastors she interviewed said that their opposition to same-sex marriage is not grounded in “malice or judgment toward anyone.” UCC pastor Kristi McLaughlin offers testimony to the contrary:
Seemingly in a minority of pastors in Mitchell who endorse same-sex marriage, McLaughlin said her stance has drawn ire from her fellow clergy members. In February 2011, The Daily Republic published an opinion piece authored by McLaughlin in favor of gay rights and same-sex relationships. She said the backlash was strong and swift.
“After my editorial came out, I have been called by my clergy peers in Mitchell the antichrist, I have been told that I’m not a Christian. I have been told that I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” she said. “There’s many people who believe that I’m not a Christian … not only due to my belief on equality, but on many issues” [Candy DenOuden, “Deciding Who Says ‘I Do’,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.11.21].
Pastor McLaughlin gives such malice and judgment (come on: you don’t use the word antichrist without some judgmental malice) a theological whatever:
But McLaughlin said it’s her faith that has helped her weather those accusations, and she no longer takes them to heart.
“I’m not living my life for my clergy peers or other Christians. I’m living my life to learn how to love and be accepting and as generous as I can for all people,” she said. “My understanding of Jesus is that Jesus gave us this idea of being fully human. To be fully human means we have to fully love” [DenOuden, 2015.11.21].
DenOuden does not report any concerns from the anti-equality pastors she spoke with that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges last summer will lead to President Obama or President Sanders coming to take their Bibles. However, they weren’t able to get together to discuss such concerns yesterday; FHA had to cancel its Mitchell town hall due to Friday’s snowstorm. I’m sure that act of God was not grounded in malice or judgment toward anyone.
…Judge Molloy has made it undeniably clear in the Wandering Medicine litigation that you do have the authroity to issue directives to county officials mandating satellite voting offices…. The Wandering Medicine litigation did not create a ceiling on the right to vote for Montana’s Indian citizens. At best, it created a floor. Montana’s tribal leaders, and the Tribes they represent, are now calling on you to ensure that the right to vote is provided equally to all Montana citizens [Jim Taylor, ACLU Montana legal director, letter to Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, 2015.10.07].
“Those who consistently cite local control to support their willingness to embrace inequality of access to polling locations need to be reminded that when it comes to civil rights local control is not about empowerment of the individual it is about his or her exploitation,” he said [Kristen Inbody, “ACLU Joins Fight for Reservation Satellite Offices,” Great Falls Tribune, 2015.10.07].
He likened that to arguments raised by local and state officials who tried to maintain Jim Crow laws in the South in the 1960s.
In South Dakota, which had more than 20 Native voting rights cases in the last 35 years, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs made funds available for counties for in-person voter registration and absentee balloting satellite offices on Indian reservations.
“This is a strong message to Native voters that equal access to the balloting box is important to her – and important to democracy itself,” Semans wrote [Inbody, 2015.10.07].
Funny Semans should mention our Secretary Krebs. Our election chief has her own balky county, Jackson, denying its Indian residents in Wanblee and other reservation towns to go fly a kite and drive to Kadoka to vote like good white people. Jackson County would rather spend several hundred thousand state taxpayer dollars in losing litigation than several thousand dollars of federal Help America Vote Act money that’s just lying there waiting for Jackson County to say, “O.K. fine,” and allow Indian voting equality.
“Local control” does not protect violations of basic rights, and equal voting access is pretty basic. The state’s chief election officer has a duty to ensure that every eligible voter has equal access to the ballot. If counties stand in the way of that equal access, the state’s chief election officer should intervene.
Vice-President Biden tells the pro-LGBT-rights crowd that the American people have moved beyond appeals to prejudice and fear and homophobia and that the remaining work on LGBT rights will only come faster. And then he zings the GOP field: “There’s homophobes still left—most of them are running for President, I think.”
I’ll stake that attitude against anyone the GOP has offered for President. Well done, Mr. Vice-President.
From 2000 to 2013, GDP per capita in South Dakota grew 26.9%. Median household income in South Dakota grew over the same period by only 2.6% (yes, we’re adjusting for inflation here). We’re actually in relatively good shape: in most states, inflation-adjusted median household income has gone down since 2000. Only four states and D.C. are at their highest historical median income; the other 46 states, including South Dakota, are down from their peak median income (we’re down 2.5% from our 2008 peak).
GDP per capita rising faster than median income means only one thing: new wealth is concentrating at the top and not trickling down to the masses. More wealth concentration means a shrinking middle class. Weakening the middle class weakens democracy:
A strong middle class, as thinkers from Aristotle to James Madison to modern political scientists have noted, fosters better governance by helping ensure government is well-run, increasing citizen participation, minimizing factional fighting, and promoting policies for the benefit of all of society rather than special interests. In contrast, economic inequality and a weak middle class make the political system imbalanced and depress the political participation of the non-wealthy, reducing voting, discussion, and interest in public policy. Political scientist Frederick Solt’s 2008 study of advanced countries found that a rise in inequality from low to high levels reduces political discussion by 12 percentage points and voting by 13 percentage points. Since even in relatively equal societies the non-wealthy are less likely to participate in politics than those with greater economic resources, inequality and a weak middle class have a profound impact on who is politically engaged [David Madland, “Growth and the Middle Class,” Democracy, Spring 2011].
Democracy demands an engaged citizenry. Capitalism demands a big middle class that provides strong consumer demand. The wealth concentration we see on the above map shows South Dakota and America are moving away from healthy democracy and healthy capitalism. Again, that’s why Bernie Sanders tells us that income inequality matters.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., required 12,000 Liberty University students to listen to Senator Bernie Sanders make a speech today. A conservative fundagelical university that would yield its floor to a Jewish democratic socialist who could be President deserves more respect than I would initially deign to grant anything created by Jerry Falwell, Sr.
And let me start off by acknowledging what I think all of you already know. And that is the views that many here at Liberty University have and I, on a number of important issues, are very, very different. I believe in women’s rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.
Having opened with two statements that can shut down conversation in some company, Senator Sanders then develops two major theses:
Even amidst radical disagreement, we must find common ground for civil discourse.
We can find that common ground in practicing the Golden Rule rather than submitting to the rule of gold.
Watch Senator Sanders develop these ideas in the video from Washington Post, starting around 48:00, ending at 1:15:50, just about 28 minutes total. Watch Senator Sanders deliver this speech with unflinching sternness, even anger—not anger at the 12,000 citizens before him whom someone failing to heed Sanders’s first thesis would dismiss as enemies, but anger at the injustice described in his thesis. Watch Senator Sanders embody his first thesis—using the religious and moral language of his audience—and call on 12,000 of the least likely Sanders voters in America to embrace his second thesis and join him in fighting economic inequality.
Watch Senator Sanders give what may be the most important speech made by any Presidential candidate this year:
The highlights—good grief! The whole speech is highlights.
Those are my views, and it is no secret. But I came here today, because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.
Too often in our country — and I think both sides bear responsibility for us — there is too much shouting at each other. There is too much making fun of each other [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Blogs. Comments. Facebook. Feel the Bern.
Carry on, Senator Sanders:
…[I]t is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you. I was in Greensboro, North Carolina, just last night. All right. We had 9,000 people out. Mostly they agreed with me. Tonight, we’re going to be in Manassas, and have thousands out and they agree with me. That’s not hard to do. That’s what politicians by and large do.
We go out and we talk to people who agree with us.
But it is harder, but not less important, for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.
And it is important to see where if possible, and I do believe it is possible, we can find common ground [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
At that point right there, every Independent, every disaffected voter in the country, should vote for Sanders.
For those not yet decided, Sanders invokes Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule. He invokes Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” And then he goes to town on the injustice of economic inequality:
We are living in a time — and I warn all of you if you would, put this in the context of the Bible, not me, in the context of the Bible — we are living in a time where a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension. And I’m talking about tens of billions of dollars, enough to support their families for thousands of years. With huge yachts, and jet planes and tens of billions. More money than they would ever know what to do with.
But at that very same moment, there are millions of people in our country, let alone the rest of the world, who are struggling to feed their families. They are struggling to put a roof over their heads, and some of them are sleeping out on the streets. They are struggling to find money in order to go to a doctor when they are sick.
Now, when we talk about morality, and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Sanders appeals to intellect and feeling, morality and patriotism:
Now you have got to think about it. You have to think about it and you have to feel it in your guts. Are you content? Do you think it’s moral when 20 percent of the children in this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, are living in poverty? Do you think it is acceptable that 40 percent of African American children are living in poverty?
In my view, there is no justice, and morality suffers when in our wealthy country, millions of children go to bed hungry. That is not morality and that is not in my view … what America should be about [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Sanders decries the concentration of wealth at the top amidst widespread poverty. He busts our chops for being the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee health care as a right. He then looks these children of family values in the eye and makes the moral case for paid family leave:
You know, there is a lot of talk in this country from politicians about family values. You have all heard that. Well, let me tell you about a family value.
In my view, there is no justice when low income and working class mothers are forced to separate from their babies one or two weeks after birth and go back to work because they need the money that their jobs provide. Now I know everybody here — we all are, maybe in different ways, but all of us believe in family values.
Jane and I have four kids. We have seven beautiful grandchildren. We believe in family values. But it is not a family value when all of you know that the most important moments and time of a human being’s life is the first weeks and months after that baby is born. That is the moment when mothers bonds with the baby; gets to love and know her baby — dad is there as well. That is what a family is about. And those of you — at least those of you who are parents — more parents back here than there I suspect. You know what an unforgettable moment that is. What an important moment that is. And I want you to think, whether you believe it is a family value, that the United States of America is the only — only — major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave.
Now in English, what that means is that all over the world when a woman has her baby she is guaranteed the right because society understands how important that moment is. She is guaranteed the right to stay home and get income in order to nurture her baby. And that is why I believe when we talk about family values that the United States government must provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
And then he goes for the Pope. Bernie Sanders walks into the biggest Protestant evangelical university in America and tells the student body to listen to Pope Francis:
I agree with Pope Francis when he says, and I quote, “The current financial crisis originated in a profound human crisis, the denial of the primacy of the human person,” and this is what he writes: “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose,” end of quote.
And the pope also writes, quote, “There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. Money has to serve, not to rule,” end of quote.
Now those are pretty profound words, which I hope we will all think about. In the pope’s view, and I agree with him, we are living in a nation and in a world, and the Bible speaks to this issue, in a nation and in a world which worships not love of brothers and sisters, not love of the poor and the sick, but worships the acquisition of money and great wealth. I do not believe that is the country we should be living in.
Money and wealth should serve the people. The people should not have to serve money and wealth [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
As I said, it’s all highlights. It’s just that good of a speech, right down to concluding with concise summaries of thesis #1:
Throughout human history, there has been endless discussion. It is part of who we are as human beings, people who think and ask questions, endless discussion and debate about the meaning of justice and about the meaning of morality. And I know that here at Liberty University, those are the kinds of discussions you have every day, and those are the kinds of discussions you should be having and the kinds of discussions we should be having all over America [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
…and thesis #2:
I would hope, and I conclude with this thought, I would hope very much that as part of that discussion and part of that learning process, some of you will conclude that if we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people and when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Heck of a speech! Heck of a speech!
Liberty University deserves our respect for inviting Senator Bernie Sanders to speak to their students. Senator Sanders deserves our respect and our attention for taking the stage in the lions’ den and speaking about the common ground all Americans should find in fighting economic injustice. This speech is the conversation our nation needs. It is the most important speech of the campaign so far, because of what Sanders says, how he says it, and where he says it.