• Tag Archives speeches
  • Sutton Rodeo Story Informs Governing Vision

    Sen. Billie Sutton, speaking in Aberdeen, SD, 2017.11.13.
    Sen. Billie Sutton, speaking in Aberdeen, SD, 2017.11.13.

    I heard another good speech by Senator Billie Sutton yesterday. Our Democratic candidate for governor told a capacity crowd (46, by my count) at the Brown County Democratic Forum about that “pretty stark moment” in his life, when Ruby, a rodeo horse he’d ridden and won on and trusted to do her job, flipped over in the chute, broke his back, and put him in a wheelchair. With the small exception of never walking again, Senator Sutton has recovered well, to become a financial advisor, a party leader, and a father.

    But “I didn’t do it alone,” Sutton told his audience. Before that 2007 accident, rodeo-star Sutton was very independent, inwardly focused, “very much about me.” He recovered only because his family, his community, and his state invested in him. He realized how much everyone depends on others, and his focus shifted from himself to others. By recognizing his connection to his community, Sutton became a bigger, fuller man. “The only way we accomplish big things is together.”

    Sutton told his personal story sincerely and affectingly. But then, in alignment with his life-changing paradigm shift from self to others, he turned to his vision for governing South Dakota. He vowed that “the good-old-boys’ club is done when I win.” He said the corruption of “the same old players” keeps us from tackling hard problems that leave working South Dakotans behind, like high tuition, low teacher pay, and no state support for preschool.

    And as he spoke about cleaning house in Pierre and making government serve all South Dakotans, his voice rose, his eyes caught fire, and his hands reached out and accented his points with a passion not seen when he talked about himself. His tone and emphasis showed that he meant what he said, that his rodeo accident really did change him, and that he really is more interested in serving the people than serving himself.

    In that regard, Sutton’s personal story can resonate with voters far better than Republican opponent Kristi Noem’s tired old tale about her family almost losing their farm to the estate tax. Not only is Noem’s story outdated and misleading, but it is pageantry rather than personal saga. Noem’s farm tale does not resonate the way Sutton’s did yesterday because it never leads listeners to an understanding of how Noem grew or changed as a person. She trots it out simply to lard emotion onto one more party talking point in support of helping the rich stay richer. Sutton’s rodeo tale is no cheap soapbox for rodeo regulation or tax breaks for wheelchair manufacturers. When Sutton talks about Ruby and his last rodeo, he tells us how he changed, how he became the man he is, and how he would govern South Dakota for all South Dakotans.

  • Statesmanship in Display: Senator Jeff Flake Calls Senators to Conscience over Dangerous Trump

    Speaking of snowflakes, Jeff Flake is no flake. The junior Senator from Arizona gave this important speech on the floor of the United States Senate warning his colleagues and his country of the “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” created by the “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” of Donald J. Trump:

    Here is the full text, as prepared and posted as a press release by Senator Flake (and let me tell you: if South Dakota’s members of Congress ever issued press releases of this substance, I’d print them in full as well). I bold some key sentences, but every word is worth reading.

    Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

    Now is such a time.

    It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our – all of our – complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

    In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order – that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue – with the tone set at the top.

    We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

    None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

    Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

    And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength – because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

    It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

    Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

    Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” – Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 – held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

    But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

    When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do – because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam – when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

    Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

    If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

    A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

    “The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

    Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

    In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

    When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

    Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

    These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

    Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

    Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

    The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

    The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

    I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

    I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

    To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

    It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

    There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

    We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

    This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

    I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

    Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

    I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

    “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

    [emphasis mine; Senator Jeff Flake, prepared remarks, United States Senate, 2017.10.24].

    This searing indictment of Donald J. Trump as an unacceptably coarse in incorrigibly ineffective leader who undermines our core American political values does not come from a raving liberal suffering from Obama withdrawal or Trump derangement syndrome. It does not come from some DailyKos/HuffPo ranter preaching to the shrill leftist echo chamber. It does not come from some Marxist or Muslim or Antifa Fabian or any other mad or sad strawman whose effigies the Trumpist apologists raise and roast.

    This indictment of Donald Trump comes from Senator Jeff Flake, a long-term-thinking, Mormon-believing, Barry Goldwater conservative. No hysteria here—just the honest assessment of an honest conservative of his party’s dishonest and dangerous President.

    Honesty—try it, Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, Congresswoman Noem. Can we get a second for Senator Flake?

    Related Reading: Make that a third: Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, also self-liberated from reëlection pressures, said today that Trump “debases our country” with his “constant non-truth telling,” is “purposely breaking down… relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation,” and is “obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

    Related Brownnosing: Meanwhile, Senator Marion Michael Rounds enjoyed having lunch with the President. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, isn’t Mr. Trump great.

    Compare Rounds’s cheer video and Flake’s speech, and tell me who’s the snowflake.

    Trivia: Jeff Flake was born in Snowflake, Arizona. Let the metaphors flow….

  • Haugaard in Translation: Quarantine and Cure Transgender Kids or They’ll Blow Their Heads Off

    The most vile speech of the week in Pierre comes from Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls). Speaking in favor of overriding Governor Dennis Daugaard’s veto of House Bill 1008, Rep. Haugaard revealed the true intent of the paranoid potty bill was not to protect student privacy or to prescribe reasonable accommodations for transgender students in school bathrooms and locker rooms but rather to condemn and eradicate the “virus” of transgender identification:

    I transcribe Rep. Haugaard’s speech in full and translate without mercy:

    Just to give a little more clarity about what the Representative from Bennett County was talking about, she was describing an incident in their area where a young lady was choosing to use the male facilities, and at some point along the way after she had done this for a while, a number of boys gang-raped her, and within a period of time, a year or two, whatever it was, this girl who’d chosen to use that bathroom for the boys’ side in the midst of her angst and confusion, she ended up suiciding [this and all subsequent blockquotes: Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls), remarks in floor debate on consideration of veto of HB 1008, South Dakota House of Representatives, 2016.03.03].

    Translation: These dumb kids choosing to be transgender are getting raped and killed. We have to pass HB 1008 and ban them from picking their own bathroom to protect them from becoming victims of their own stupidity.

    Well, that’s my experience with this issue. And it is a bill that protects all of the kids in the public schools including those that have some issues in regard to what their gender is. And for us to stand here and say the Governor knows best, we passed it up through both houses and he chose to veto it, even after he’d expressed support for it. And I think it’s disingenuous for us to flip our vote just because we think well it’s an election year, the Governor vetoed it, and we don’t want to offend the Governor. Do what you did the first time.

    Translation: There’s no such thing as changing your mind due to listening to the other side. There’s just rank political opportunism (even though the Governor isn’t running for reëlection).

    We’re the adults in the room—

    Translation: Transgenderism is childish.

    —and we should recognize when there’s these issues that have become—they’ve been so simple in our history and now they’re so complex. And we act on so many things in this chamber out of a misplaced sense of compassion that we do a tremendous disservice to those kids that are going through the angst of growing up in those adolescent years.

    Translation: Transgender students deserve no compassion.

    And as we’ve seen, the literature tells us that a high percentage of people who choose this transgender life—and I say choose, it’s not embedded in their DNA—when they go through this process, the vast majority reject that transgender situation as they become young adults and revert back to the gender of their birth.

    Translation: Transgenderism is a choice, a rebellion against DNA, a phase that right-minded kids grow out of (which is bunk).

    And in that timeframe, along with those issues of confusion, there’s a high percentage, estimated to be as much as 20 times higher for this particular group of people identifying in this way, 320 times higher likelihood of suicide.

    You can think back over the decades, there’s always been some issues along the way throughout all of history where people have had choices that they have made and some confusion about their very being, but not the way it’s become in the past 20 years. It seems like a virus that’s broken out. And that virus is grown by the assent of people like us where we say, well we’re going to accommodate this, and we’re going to have compassion.

    Translation: Never mind choice—now gender dysphoria is a disease (no, it’s not), a plague that we are spreading. We shouldn’t accommodate transgender kids; we should quarantine them.

    We want to be wise enough to recognize that when you feed the fire of this kind of confusion, you’re going to add to number of people that are going to make this choice. And when you help that along, you help along people in the process of moving into a lifestyle that is never going to be what was embedded in their soul, and you’re going to see more and more of these people suicide.

    Translation: By opposing HB 1008, you are killing children.

    And if you just stop for a minute and consider that, consider the ramifications of this, and you think about the very act of suicide, and I deal with this on a regular basis, as many as four-plus petitions per day in Minnehaha County, of people who are danger to self or others. And I have these hearings, I have one scheduled tomorrow, I’m not sure if it’s on this issue or not, but people that actively attempt suicide, by overdose or hanging or jumping or often times just a gunshot wound.

    Translation: Now I’m talking about things that don’t have anything to do with transgender students, but I need to inflate my ethos and pathos to set up the next line.

    So you think about this when you vote on this, that you might be encouraging a young person to choose this situation and perpetuate this, and you think about somebody tucking a pistol up under their throat and pulling the trigger.

    You might feel warm and fuzzy today because we encourage somebody to not have that angst in their life and struggle with this, we gave them the opportunity to live this lifestyle. But you consider what suicide is, and that we’re saying, yes, go ahead, we’ll endorse this lifestyle.

    Translation: You warm and fuzzy liberals are blowing kids’ heads off (which actually is the proper response to zombies, so since we’re responding to a deadly virus, in a way, that should be fine).

    We need to vote the way we did the first time…. We need to be responsible and do what we recognize to be wisdom as opposed to misplaced emotion.

    Translation: My emotion about this issue is perfectly acceptable. Your emotion about this issue invalidates your position.

    Because we can all walk out of here after a vote, and some of you might think, well, I’m going to switch my vote because I’m coming up for election, I’m not sure who’s going to be against me. But the fact is you do what’s right, whether it gets you elected again or not. And you need to be prudent in your choices and recognize the gravity of these votes.

    Translation: I’m starting to feel like Custer here. 

    And here we sit, just because the Governor says he’s vetoing this for a variety of reasons, that shouldn’t make a bit of difference because you should have considered all those things when you voted the first time.

    Translation: Once we cast a vote, we’re done thinking about an issue. There’s no need to consider new information, because we’ve considered everything that could be relevant to our vote.

    And like I said, we can have a misplaced sense of compassion, but it’s exactly that, it’s a misplaced sense of compassion, and we need to just stand by and recognize that this is a very serious situation in our culture. We need to step up and do the right things.

    Translation: Repeating my main point: transgender students deserve no compassion. They deserve a swift kick in the pants/slacks for threatening to unravel good Christian culture. We need to fight them before they destroy themselves and take us with them.

    This is a difficult vote for everybody. It seems like it should be simple, but we should just be consistent with our votes, and I’d encourage us to vote green on this, send it over to the Senate, and they can have the same struggles.

    Translation: I’m working oh so admirably hard to stand against decency and civil rights. If I’m going to get kicked around in the next election, I want to take some Senators down along with me. 7th Cavalry, charge!

    Rep. Haugaard’s victim-blaming sentiments still won a bare majority of the House, 36–29, but not the two-thirds necessary to send the veto override discussion to the Senate.

    Rep. Haugaard can’t settle on whether transgender students choose their malady or catch it. But Rep. Haugaard’s hateful remarks add to the pile of vile rhetoric from conservative Sioux Falls legislators who view transgender students as plague vectors to be quarantined and cured. If we warm and fuzzy liberals choose to coddle them instead, Rep. Haugaard only blames us and them for their rapes and suicides.

  • “Dakota” Means “Ally”—Good Senate Speeches from Losing Fight Against HB 1008

    Today was not a good day in the South Dakota Legislature. Social media is aswirl with the ignorance, dissemblage, sexism, and spite displayed by the Republican majority that voted for House Bill 1008, the paranoid potty bill. Only Governor Daugaard’s veto pen can save us from further shame and humiliation and maybe a tourism boycott (though how many visitors have we lost over the past decade over our regressive abortion restrictions?).

    So let me try to close the day on a good note, by spotlight the best things said by South Dakota Senators during today’s floor debate on HB 1008 [SDPB video, beginning 1:30:40]:

    Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission):

    Sen. Tory Heinert, SD Senate, floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)
    Sen. Tory Heinert, SD Senate, floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)

    [Referring to remarks earlier in the day from visiting Congresswoman Kristi Noem]: We heard from our Representative from Washington about unneeded regulation. This is truly unneeded regulation. Why is that 35 of us think we know better than the school districts and the parents and the people that it would affect the most?

    …And when does the discrimination stop? Is it just transgender? Or do we go next year, is it, well, I don’t like blond hair blue eyes? I don’t like Natives? We’re going to tread down a very serious path. And we can all say, “Oh no, that’s not what this means, that’s not what this means!” But that’s how it starts. This is exactly how it starts.

    Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison):

    [Responding to HB 1008 lead Senate sponsor Sen. Brock Greenfield’s (R-2/Clark) dismissal of his question about legal liability for schools as a “rabbit trail”]: I don’t really consider this to be a rabbit’s trail, with all due respect to the prime sponsor of the bill. We could be talking about several thousands or millions of dollars if we’re found—if a school is found to be in fault on this issue.

    Senator Angie Buhl O’Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls):

    I am deeply concerned that by passing this bill we are putting our schools at risk of losing their Title IX funding. If there are lawsuits—and there almost certainly will be—there may be private assistance to help with that, but those private entities would not cover the damages or fill in lost Title IX funding, which across the state of South Dakota is over $200 million. Schools are struggling financially as it is, and I’m not sure how we’re going to fill in the other 200 million as a state if this goes through. We’re having a hard enough time with the other funding issues as it is.

    …And maybe this bill was not intended to be disrespectful, but I would submit this: if someone, a whole community of people, tells us that we are hurting them, who are we to decide that we didn’t? This fight was not brought to us by the transgender community. They just want to live their lives in peace.

    …I’m reminded of the comments that we heard from the new commander of the USS South Dakota when he came and addressed this body, when he said the word “Dakota” literally means friendly or ally. And as a fourth generation South Dakotan, that’s the state I’ve always wanted us to be, and I hope that we can continue to be that.

    Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton):

    Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, SD Senate floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)
    Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, SD Senate floor debate, 2016.02.16 (screen cap SDPB)

    I’ve not heard from anybody who had a single example of a problem, a single incident in which the local school district wasn’t handling the issue appropriately, not a single, single case.

    …We’re fixing nothing, but we’re creating problems.

    …Communities have to be accepting of everyone. Many of our young people do not want to live in communities where people are not accepting and open-minded of people who may be different from the traditional you and me.

    …I’ll promise you, a lot of the really good businesses in America want to relocate in places that are progressive and open-minded and tolerant.

    …Young people think we’re crazy.

    …[later, responding to a statement from Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) that HB 1008 is about protecting innocent little girls]: It suggests that transgender youth are… out there preying on other kids. That just needs to be corrected for the record. These are kids who are probably very much at risk in their schools…

    High school’s hard enough if you’re the quarterback who can throw the ball 50 yards or if you’re the top cheerleader or if you’re the straight-A student. It’s tough enough then. But think how tough it must be for these kids. These are probably the last kids that are going to be molesters or preying on other kids. They’ve faced adversity, and they’re probably gentler and wiser for it. Let’s not be adding to their burdens.

    Senator Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City):

    My experience and good sense tell me to stay seated. This is an issue that most people have made their mind up and they don’t need or want to listen, they want to move on. But my conscience requires me to stand up, because despite the good intentions, I think, of the sponsors, this bill is causing pain to a significant minority in our community.

    Thank you, Senator Tieszen, for letting conscience overrule your “good sense.” Thank you and Senator Deb Peters for standing up to speak against this latest legislative embarrassment for South Dakota. Thank you Senators Tieszen, Peters, Fiegen, Soholt, Tidemann, Vehle, and White for opposing your Republican colleagues and voting with the wiser and solid Democratic caucus against this bad bill.

    As commentators heap scorn on our state, please point them toward the words of these Senators and remind them, “We South Dakotans aren’t all bad.” That’s a poor state motto (and it won’t save any school board from a lawsuit it will lose)… but tonight, thanks to our Legislature, it’s the best we can do.

  • Sanders to Liberty Students: Find Common Ground in Fighting Income Inequality

    Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Liberty University, 2015.09.14. Screen cap from YouTube.
    Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Liberty University, 2015.09.14. Screen cap from YouTube.

    Subtitle: Best Darn Speech of 2016.

    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.

    Senator Sanders also deserves respect for thanking his hosts and plowing straight into his disagreements with them:

    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.

    I believe in gay rights and gay marriage [Senator, Bernie Sanders, address to Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, 2015.09.14].

    Having opened with two statements that can shut down conversation in some company, Senator Sanders then develops two major theses:

    1. Even amidst radical disagreement, we must find common ground for civil discourse.
    2. 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 totalWatch 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.

  • Blogger Speaks in Huron Tomorrow Noon on Referenda and Democracy

    I might even put on a necktie!
    I might even put on a necktie!

    Why bother driving to Pierre for the Bosworth trial? You already know what the prosecution will say, what the defense will offer as distractions, and how the jury will rule. Come to Huron Thursday for some real political fireworks!

    The Beadle County Democratic Forum is featuring me as their speaker tomorrow, May 21, from noon to 1 p.m. at Huron Events Center, downtown, 100 4th St. SW. I fouled up the schedule last time, but I will be there Thursday! I’ll talk for a few minutes about our current referendum petition drives and democracy, then take all the questions about South Dakota politics and blogging that we can cram into a Huron lunch break.

    I’ll also be collecting petition signatures and recruiting circulators. If you’d like to sign our referendum petitions, come have lunch with the Beadle County Democrats! If you’d like to help circulate (and we still need help to reach the 13,871 signatures on each petition by June 29!), come grab some sheets from me at lunch and ask your friends and neighbors to help defend democracy!

  • Word Count Fun: Dayton Briefer by Half-Plus than Daugaard

    Ballotpedia makes word clouds of the 48 gubernatorial “state of the state” addresses delivered so far this year. For your Rorschachian diversion, here are the visual representations of word frequency in South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s January 13 address and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s April 9 speech:

    Ballotpedia's word cloud of Gov. Dennis Daugaard's Jan. 13, 2015, State of the State speech.
    Ballotpedia’s word cloud of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Jan. 13, 2015, State of the State speech.
    Ballotpedia word cloud of Gov. Mark Dayton's Apr. 9, 2015, State of the State speech.
    Ballotpedia word cloud of Gov. Mark Dayton’s Apr. 9, 2015, State of the State speech.

    According to Ballotpedia, “The average length of a 2015 address was 4,454 words with Democratic governors averaging 4,698 words and Republican governors averaging 4,010 words.” Governor Dayton and Governor Daugaard defy statistical expectations. Minnesota’s governor assessed his state’s state in 3,490 words, 22% than the national average. Nineteen State of the State addresses were shorter, with the briefest coming from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (1,924 words) and Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy (1,910 words).

    Governor Daugaard went unexpectedly un-Coolidgian: Grandpa Cheap‘s address ran 8,702 words, 95% longer than the national average. Governor Daugaard’s State of the State speech is the third-longest this year, behind only New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo (10,377 words) and 2015 Wind Power champ Ohio Governor John Kasich (10,588 words).