Yesterday Republican gubernatorial candidate Kristi Noem released her “Family-First Initiative,” in which she promises to be a “family-first” governor and “strengthen the family unit and preserve the values South Dakota has long embraced.”
“Family-First” starts with the Handmaid’s Tale approach to reproductive rights. The first specific policy she mentions is “a full abortion ban.” A Governor Noem would never sign such a ban, because then what would her base have left to vote on? Instead of answering every policy question by shouting We love babies! More babies!, Noem voters would have to crack the books and study regressive taxes, road construction, voting rights, and other practical policy issues that, in contrast to their usual litmus-test bleatings, affect the quality of life of every South Dakotan every day.
Noem gets so excited talking about abortion that she forgets her critique of Marty Jackley’s alleged expansion of government and promises to expand government. She’ll create a whole new position in the Governor’s office, an “Unborn Person Advocate” to “monitor, report, and recommend legislative and policy changes.” (What, you can’t just read Gordon Howie’s blog for that?)
Then comes theocracy, with Noem promising special government protection for the “special, God-given union between one man and one woman.” Noem offers no specific policy on how she will undrop the gavel with which the Supreme Court annulled South Dakota’s unconstitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage (i.e., “attempted to silence those of us who believe in traditional marriage”—hey, Kristi, I missed the part of Obergefell that ordered you not to talk about your perceived moral superiority), but her words are surely soothing to the declining Christian majority.
In other governing for Jesus, Noem promises to “partner with faith-based groups” to “expand proselytiz—” oops! that’s, “expand pro-family education opportunities and bonding experiences in our prisons and jails” for incarcerated parents. Why faith-based groups specifically? Why not all non-profits?
Noem does get practical, talking about working with our universities and tech schools to “offer options for more flexible course loads” (um, don’t we already have that?). She offers to expand (there’s that liberal word again) residential and family-based drug treatment options and family education programs.
But as so often happens with our Republican candidates, much of the “initiative” is fluff about continuing the status quo and keeping government from doing things that parents ought to be doing. Kristi, as a frequent manager of classrooms, let me remind you that most public officials and employees really have no desire to usurp the role of parents; in K-12 education, at least, we’re filling gaps left by parents scrambling to piece together multiple paychecks to make rent. The only nods toward improving the wages and financial situation of South Dakota families are the flexible course hours suggestion, a wave of the magic conservative wand at the idea that cutting licensing and regulation of daycares will make child care cheaper (yes, because why bother regulating daycares?), and a promise to get tough on what she says are “far too many cases of noncustodial parents avoiding child support measures” (uh oh, risking the angry dad vote!)
Ban abortion, deride alternative family structures, and deregulate daycare—such is the meaning of “family” for Republicans like Kristi Noem. Somehow, I don’t think Noem’s Family-First Initiative is really putting my family first.