Not one South Dakota Democrat who face Republican opponents won first place in last week’s votes for Legislature and higher. Incumbents Spence Hawley and Julie Bartling defaulted into the second-place seats in three-way races. Former legislator Dan Ahlers won second in a four-way race over aging GOP veteran Roger Hunt. Our only clear victories came in District 15, where incumbent Karen Soli and fellow Dem Jamie Smith beat two independents. With second place the best we can muster in normal partisan contests, no South Dakota Democrat on this year’s ballot, myself included, seems really qualified to tell us how we get back to beating Republicans.
Nonetheless, Dana Ferguson says that unsuccessful U.S. House candidate Democrat Paula Hawks wants heads to roll in party leadership:
“I think that what we’ve seen in the last year is that what we’re doing isn’t working,” she said Tuesday. “We do need a shake-up.”
…Hawks declined to name specific party leaders or positions she thinks need to change [Dana Ferguson, “After Loss, Hawks Calls for ‘Shake-Up’ in Democratic Party,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.11.15].
Former legislator Frank Kloucek, who lost his own race for Bon Homme County Commission last Tuesday but nonetheless may have won more past elections than every Democrat on last week’s Legislative ballots combined, does name a specific party leader, chair Ann Tornberg:
“Ann has to go,” he said. “The ball keeps getting dropped” [Ferguson, 2016.11.15].
Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth, who lost to Daugaard apppintee Rep. Kris Langer in the District 25 Senate race, isn’t headhunting yet:
“I think we should try to keep as much of the staff there as possible and learn from the mistakes we’ve made,” Barth said [Ferguson, 2016.11.15].
I’m friends with everyone in this discussion. For the moment, I’m with Barth.
I bear far more direct responsibility for losing District 3 than Ann Tornberg does. Fire me.
Scott Parsley bears far more direct responsibility for losing District 8 than Tornberg or SDDP exec Suzanne Jones Pranger. Fire Scott.
Clara Hart bears far more direct responsibility for losing District 6 than Tornberg or Jones Pranger. Fire Clara.
We all failed. If we want to blame specific people, we have to blame ourselves. If blame for losing in 2016 disqualifies one from party leadership, then we’re going to need to import Democrats to run the South Dakota Democratic Party.
“Who should carry out our battle plan?” is the wrong question to ask until we have a battle plan. All these furious discussions leading up to and including the statewide central committee meeting the second weekend of December should focus on one thing: deciding the actions we will take as a party to win elections in 2018. We should then as a party turn to our party leaders and say, “Can you commit to carrying out these actions?” If our leaders’ answer is “Yes,” then we say, “Make it so.” If our leaders say “No,” or if we don’t trust our leaders’ commitment or capability to carry out those actions, then we get new leaders.
Shuffling our generals makes fun drama, not to mention easier soundbites for the press. (This blog post itself is a lot easier to write than the 20-point tome that I haven’t drafted yet on actual actions to save the South Dakota Democratic Party.) But shuffling the generals is a waste of energy and potentially useful personnel, especially when we don’t know what we want the new generals to do. Let’s make a plan first, then talk about who carries it out.