I’ve mentioned this idea in a few other posts this week, so let’s consolidate in one post all the reasons that South Dakota’s primary was a bad day for Trumpists:
1. Neal Tapio lost. The whinging Trump karaoke singer still got far more votes than he deserved, and he actually won two counties, Tripp and Oglala Lakota, whose Republicans have brought shame and humiliation upon their communities.
2. Shantel Krebs lost. Krebs pinned most of her electoral hopes on trying to out-Trump Tapio. Like Tapio, she only won two counties, Bennett and Harding. Unable to organize or unite, Trumpists split their votes and ceded the nomination to the GOP plurality’s pick, relatively mellow mainstreamer Dusty Johnson. Muslim Advocates and South Dakota Voices for Justice celebrated Johnson’s win as a rejection of “bigoted platforms against immigrants, refugees, and Muslims.”
3. Ed Randazzo lost. Randazzo has fomented anti-immigrant hysteria by supporting the same xenophobic rallies where Tapio tried to build an activist base. His defeat by a moderate engineer and a dead man in archly conservative Rapid City further suggests the impotence of Trumpism beyond Il Duce’s personality.
4. Daugaard’s endorsees won. Distinctly un-Trumpy in policy and temperament, our Governor gave $1,000 contributions to Dusty Johnson and to at least eleven Republican Legislative candidates who faced primaries. Johnson and ten of Daugaard’s Legislative picks won their primaries, a much better success rate than Daugaard cash-endorsees in 2012 and 2016.
5. Republican incumbents won. Every Legislative incumbent on the primary ballot advanced to the general election. Less than a third of non-incumbents survived the primary. If Trumpism is about overthrowing the status quo, no such sentiment manifested itself in South Dakota’s Legislative primaries.
6. Dan Kaiser, Dan Richardt, and Char Cornelius lost. Here in Aberdeen, the Brown County Republican Party put three hard-right conservatives into local races. As Republican spin blog Dakota War College says, Kaiser lobbed dubious allegations of gun-grabbing leftism at his opponent, incumbent Sheriff Mark Milbrandt, only to come away with 34% of the vote. Trump-loving Brown County GOP chair Char Cornelius had known Democratic incumbent Rob Ronayne to beat up in a non-partisan election scheduled in conjunction with a primary that gave her fellow Republicans far more reason to show up at the polls than Dems or indies, and she still managed to get only 39% of the vote. The perhaps less prominently right-wing Dan Richardt managed 43% against his more Chambery/establishmenty Republican opponent Alan Johnson. As in last year’s local elections, here in a hotbed of anti-Muslim rallies regularly attended by Republican leading lights, the Trumpist xenophobes were unable to rally a voting majority behind candidates who might support their radical agenda.
7. Rapid City voters approved a new arena. Defeating the civic center replacement plan in 2015 was a crowning achievement for Rapid City’s anti-tax conservatives. Those Trumpy conservatives tried blocking this year’s plan, too, but got swamped by 40% bigger turnout and 2.56 times as many Yes votes. When more people vote, Trumpy anti-ism has less chance of winning.
Neal Tapio demonstrated most vividly that the only guy who can turn Trumpism into votes is the unique monster that is Donald Trump. Trump wasn’t on any South Dakota ballot Tuesday, and Trumpism helped few if any candidates win.