Donald Trump’s receipt of the nuclear codes in 72 days makes my loss in yesterday’s District 3 Senate race seem trivial. Yet I must observe….
Republican legislator Al Novstrup spent the most beautiful pre-election weekend possible attending a tailgate party and football game 150 miles from his district and obstinately arguing on Facebook that his embarrassingly ignorant comment that Sharia law rules Dearborn, Michigan, is actually true because Demkota Beef makes halal meat (I wonder where Al got that idea…). His opponent (that’s me!) spent that weekend knocking on the last 600 of several thousand doors personally visited since the end of May.
Al’s lazy illogic won him 6,364 votes from our neighbors and an eighth term in Pierre. 4,031 voted for me. That shows what honesty and hard work gets a Democrat in South Dakota.
Democrats took a beating everywhere in South Dakota. Not one new Democrat won a seat challenged by Republicans last night. Former Democratic legislator Dan Ahlers returned to beat the odious and genital-obsessed Republican incumbent Roger Hunt in District 25 by a recount-worthy 33 votes, but Ahlers still finished second to new Republican Rep.-Elect Tom Pischke, who will probably dedicate his time in Pierre to arguing that men don’t have enough rights.
My friend, former refugee, and champion of human rights Clara Hart got over $76,000 in campaign contributions thanks to one great mention from Bernie Sanders. Yet she drew a lower percentage of the District 6 House vote than the stronger Democrat, Joseph Weis, who ran against the same Herman Otten/Isaac Latterell tandem in 2012 and spent less than $750 on his whole campaign.
Another friend, Senator Scott Parsley, legislated as one of the most moderate, pro-business Democrats you could ask for. Yet District 8 threw him out in favor of inexperienced twenty-something Jordan Youngberg.
And the top of our Democratic ticket? Henry Red Cloud 25%. Jay Williams 28%. Hillary Clinton 32%. Paula Hawks 36%. The new Democratic default vote in South Dakota appears to be 30%. Rep. Paula Hawks’s superior intellect mattered not one whit, and her extra effort over that of the rest of the top of our ticket didn’t push her through the old assumed Dem default of 40%.
It’s not as if South Dakota Democrats are losing to great statesmen. We Democrats face no Peter Norbecks, never mind any Ronald Reagans. We face ignorant, self-serving dissemblers like Al Novstrup, and we get beat. Being smart and right didn’t save us. Raising money didn’t save us. Ballot measure synergy didn’t save us (more on that in my next post!).
Last night we Democrats lost two Senate seats and two House seats. Republicans now control our Senate 29–6 and our House 60–10. There have not been this few Democrats in Pierre since 1954 (see historical chart on page 50 of the Legislator Reference Book).
We South Dakota Democrats have no cause for joy. Last night’s results show we have completely squandered George McGovern’s legacy and left our state at the mercy of a Republican Party that can unchallenged continue to block Medicaid expansion, erode our gains in teacher pay, trample on the rights of our LGBT neighbors, annul women’s right to end their pregnancies, and let the state budget slide toward further emergencies in the name of keeping taxes low. We Democrats have failed to field the loyal opposition South Dakota so desperately needs to save it from the complacent corruption of one-party rule.
And I am part of that failure. For all my cogitation over the past decade-plus of blogging, for all my efforts to inspire by example and run a smart, efficient, principled, and fearless campaign, I couldn’t break 40%, either, against a petty man who sits around the last days before an election watching football and stoking fears of Sharia law. I did everything I thought would provide a model for Democratic success, and I produced failure, just like every other new Democratic candidate (and several more experienced colleagues).
Beating the self-serving ignorance of the Republican Party should not be hard. Yet somehow, for us South Dakota Democrats, it is. We face an enormously hard challenge in building a new South Dakota Democratic Party—not a wing of the Republican Party, but a real opposition party—that can make a credible case to volunteers, donors, and voters that we can win and can and should govern.
I welcome your suggestions toward that vital goal.