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Things I Heard at the South Dakota State Fair

As I mentioned, I didn’t take a lot of pictures at the South Dakota State Fair because I spent a lot more time listening to my fellow South Dakotans. Here’s a random assortment of interesting things I heard in those midway conversations (to protect the innocent, I will use no names):

Post-Janklow Stress Disorder: A fellow member of the Resistance recalled a training session for activists where an experienced out-of-state organizer talked about a variety of practical and effective community organizing activities. My compatriot said the activities sounded great but told the organizer that they wouldn’t fly here in South Dakota many public and private employees are still politically paralyzed by the Janklow-era fear that engaging in visible political activism to challenge the status quo will cost them their jobs. (My compatriot has tried organizing various actions and encountered that fear directly.) The out-of-state organizer, who has organized in many states, said this fear seems unique to, or at least uniquely intense in, South Dakota, as if the entire state is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder..

Land of Activist Opportunity: Having moved to South Dakota only a few years ago, this same activist friend doesn’t suffer PJSD.  This activist friend recognizes that progressive activism might make more progress in another state but wants to stay here and fight. This friend comes from a larger city in a larger state—back home, people are already doing the necessary activism and don’t really need this friend’s help. Here in South Dakota, anyone who wants to help fight for truth and justice can walk right into a meeting and start organizing.

Soybeans, Dicamba, and Monsanto: A farmer read my post on possible herbicide drift from new dicamba products and stopped by specifically to talk to me about his experience. He said he planted Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant soybeans and applied the new dicamba herbicide this year. He said so far the beans look like the best he’s ever planted, but some of his neighbors say they’ve seen some of the signs of dicamba drift in their fields. He said one problem with identifying the cause of the apparent crop damage is that some of the possible drift areas don’t show the usual wind-driven patterns of damage that come from drift.

This farmer explained an interesting chemistry point to me. The concern with this new dicamba product is not that the wind comes up and sweeps the herbicide across the road to the neighbors’ fields right after application. Rather, if the temperature gets warm enough, the dicamba droplets turn from liquid to gas and can travel much more easily to other fields.

This farmer said his beef lies with Monsanto’s claim that if drift is happening, it’s probably farmers’ fault for not following the lengthy instructions on the dicamba labels. This farmer says he read the instructions provided online, attended training sessions produced by Monsanto and the Extension Service, and applied the herbicide exactly as instructed and still has reports of possible drift around his fields. If the new dicamba product is responsible for neighboring crop damage, this farmer doubts that operator error is a primary explanation.

How to Beat CAFOs—Don’t Say “CAFO”? A Grant County friend says Turner County voters’ rejection of CAFO-friendly zoning revisions and her own experience suggest that if we want to keep factory feedlots from expanding, we won’t win by focusing on the environmental destruction CAFOs cause. Instead, mega-manure opponents need to focus on issues of property rights and local control: the Mickelson/factory-meat push seeks to remove the ability of local voters and taxpayers to get notice of new industrial developments that can impact their property values and have a say in their own zoning decisions.

Constituent Service: One South Dakotan asked whom to contact to talk about the possibility of getting special license plates for EMTs, like the ones firefighters can get. I said check with the Department of Revenue, which runs license plates, and, if we need legislation (and since I was in the Democratic Building), contact Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton. But watch out: if the Sutton campaign comes out advocating for EMT license plates (they have them in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Republicans will cry that Democrats are playing identity politics.)

Smaller Talk:

  • A friend stopped by with her daughter, who’s showing pigs. This friend follows the blog, but we’re pretty sure that the last time we talked face to face was 30 years ago, right there on the Fairgrounds, just a block away, where we performed together on the Freedom Stage in the 4-H Performing Arts Troupe.
  • An acquaintance who knows of the blog told me he’s considering a career change and might like to work for the Republicans. Contrary to every impulse that should arise when I hear someone is considering leaping into the fiery pits of Hell, I did not try to dissuade this reader; I just listened to this reader’s assessment of his professional and personal situation and said what I could to help him weigh the options. (I didn’t mention this at the time, but another correspondent suggested that working for a Liz May for Governor campaign could be fun.)
  • An experienced politico talked about writing and the importance of framing our ideas and policy arguments in everyday, personal terms that people can relate to. I know, there may be only ten people in this state who can relate to sitting on the Fair midway and talking about writing… but hey! you other eight! You’re my kind of people. (That reminds me of my first unchaperoned date with a young woman who came with me to the Prairie Village Steam Threshing Jamboree and stood in the flea market/concessions area talking with me about E-Prime. Three and a half months later, we were engaged to be married.)
  • Not really a conversation, but a bit of luck: A fellow Democratic warrior was trying to get his computer to talk to the TV in the Democratic Building. He started to explain the problem; I just reached over and switched the TV off, then back on. Immediately the computer display flashed up onto the TV. When in doubt, reboot first! Now if only I could find that magic power switch for the Democratic Party….


  1. mtr 2017-09-02 20:24

    Janklow Stories
    – Sheriff of X County pulling over the Governor for speeding and subsequently getting canned.
    – Leaving large currency bills lying around his office to see if janitors will swipe them.
    – Janklow driving around state government parking lots in Pierre (post election) and jotting down license plate numbers of people with the Democratic adversaries pumper stickers, finding their name via the Highway Patrol and sending them pink slip.

    These are the stories I have heard. The question is a) did it actually happen or b) are these stories to keep potential trouble makers in check.

  2. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-09-02 21:07

    The “Post-Janklow Stress Disorder” is a real fear I think for many South Dakotans even to this day. But Janklow is gone, but the memories of good Democrats, better Democrats than me and others, more successful Democrats than me or others willing to legitimize Janklow is not a disorder, but a memory that will not soon be erased in my mind or other Democrats of conscience, I must add.

    For too long Democrats in this state were enablers to this fear or mentality, but it is time for Democrats to walk from this fear, and in so doing, to stop being compassionate Republicans and start being confident Democrats…..

  3. Mike 2017-09-02 22:40

    The T election and administration could be viewed as a “reboot” attempt. Hopefully someone will be around to turn the nation back on. Not sure Dems know where the power button is.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-03 06:47

    I enthusiastically second JKC’s call for Democrats to snap out of it. It’s interesting that Trump could help, because Trump inclines toward the sort of petty vindictiveness that the stories MTR lists ascribe to Janklow and thus could remind us of the local history we have to fight.

  5. Mr. Lansing 2017-09-03 10:51

    For instance, how would you translate “I was born in 1966”? ~
    ~ Born in 1966. Had the choice to do nothing or do something. Doing nothing for 30 years had helped no one. One choice remained.

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