Good Republican blogging is not impossible. But since his failed stint in the Secretary of State’s office, Pat Powers has wallowed in lazy mediocrity, blindly repeating his favored (usually moneyed) interests but offering no substantive policy analysis.
The latest exhibit is his presentation, without commentary, of the blatant ad hominem attack launched by GOP operative Will Mortenson against Amendment V, the open nonpartisan primary proposal. Here’s the YouTube ad from “South Dakotans Against V”:
The ad is hilariously bad on multiple levels:
- The political party that has nominated powerful Manhattan billionaire Donald J. Trump for President is telling us to fear the “power elite in Manhattan” and “rich billionaires from New York” (emphasis theirs).
- The ad warns that the alleged “rich billionaires from New York” want to “fundamentally change South Dakota.” The only explanation of what that fundamental change might look like is the partial and inaccurate portrayal of Amendment V as an effort to “hide party labels.” That statement is false: Amendment V would not place party labels on the ballot, but party affiliation would not be hidden from voters any more than a candidate’s sex, height, or policy positions.
- The alleged “fundamental change” apparently includes the goal of putting “liberal Democrats in office.” Tell me, Will and No-V-ers, if all V does is take party labels off a ballot, how would the good people of South Dakota, whom you assume are predominantly conservative Republicans, suddenly shift to voting for candidates who espouse liberal Democratic policies? Are you really saying that the only thing preventing the public from realizing that Republicans policies don’t really reflect voters’ values is that little “R” you get to hang on your names on the state-funded ballot?
- The “billionaire supporter of Barack Obama” the ad shows but does not name is John Arnold, former Enron executive and Houston billionaire who has supported open primary proposals in Oregon and Arizona. He has also been portrayed as a public-pension-bashing “right-wing kingmaker.” Arnold fits the “don’t trust billionaires” narrative of the No on V video, but not the “evil New York liberals” narrative.
- The ad claims V “is an assault on South Dakota’s ability to govern itself.” Really? A ballot initiative that voters get to decide for themselves and that would allow more people to vote on more candidates in every primary election somehow takes away our self-governance? Come on—not one word of Amendment V surrenders any authority currently enjoyed by voters or any state or local governing body in South Dakota.
- The photos of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are completely irrelevant to the discussion of Amendment V, which does not change how the Presidential primary is conducted. The Clinton campaign has not spoken out on or, to the best of my knowledge, provided any material support to Amendment V or any other South Dakota ballot measure.
- The ad claims Amendment V is “Democratic operatives and party bosses masquerading as non partisans.” The only backing for this claim is a photo of Rick Weiland labeled “2014 Failed Democratic Senate Candidate. Chairman of Yes on V Committee.” Hmmm… if Rick is a party boss, he hasn’t called me and bossed me around much in my State Senate campaign. And last I checked, Vote Yes on V campaign chair Rick Knobe is no Democratic operative or boss of any party. Neither are Chuck Parkinson, Kim Wright, Vernon Brown, De Knudson, and other Republican and independent members of the Vote Yes on V campaign leadership.
- The ad also ignores the fact that the South Dakota Democratic Party is remaining neutral on Amendment V and that Democratic activist Jay Davis is openly campaigning against Amendment V. That doesn’t sound like much of a Demcoratic power play to me.
Outside the video, Mortenson enlists fellow Republican Dennis Daugaard to spout the bunker mentality:
“I think South Dakotans should be governing South Dakota,” said Mortenson, chairman of Vote No On V.
…“These big money groups from out-of-state have their own motivations and see our state as an easy target to push their agenda,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said. “South Dakota works very well when it governs itself. I oppose Amendment V on the merits and oppose being the test state for outside interests” [Evan Hendershot, “Opponents Clash over Amendment V,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.09.14].
If out-of-state support is really the Republicans’ criterion for rejecting a ballot question, then they will reject all of the following:
- Referred Law 20, the youth minimum wage: sure, sponsored by Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), but backed on the official ballot question pamphlet by Washington D.C. lobbyist Michael Saltsman.
- Amendment S, GOP activist Jason Glodt’s crime victims bill of rights, paid for almost entirely by California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas.
- Amendment U, the payday lenders’ fake rate cap, paid for almost entirely by Georgia payday lending executive Rod Aycox.
Mortenson’s critique sounds like saying, “I won’t eat pizza, because New Yorkers like pizza.” The more rational “out-of-state” critique involves actually reviewing the proposal and determining whether it somehow fails to address specific problems in South Dakota. South Dakota has districts dominated by one party or the other. Amendment V opens primaries and allows previously excluded voters to participate in choosing their elected officials. That’s a good idea, whether Manhattan and Houston billionaires think so or not.
The No on V video underexplains and misrepresents the open nonpartisan primary proposal. It is propaganda, not honest voter education.