Columnist Dave Baumeister went to lunch with Democrats Friday and heard a good speech by Bernie Hunhoff on the difference between conservatives and liberals. Here’s Baumeister’s report from Friday’s Democratic Forum in Sioux Falls
“South Dakota is a great place for liberals and progressives to make a difference. This is where they should be.”
This week I got to play reporter for the Dakota Free Press when I covered the weekly Democratic Forum in Sioux Falls. So, the words I started off with are those of South Dakota Magazine publisher and famous state Democrat, Bernie Hunhoff.
Hunhoff’s talk on Friday, Nov. 8 brought back the original meanings of the words conservative and liberal when he said, “One group is cautious and doesn’t want change. The other group wants to move and get going.
“Maybe this is the way things should be.”
As I have said before, neither side has a monopoly on good ideas. But in a political context, being “conservative” means a person does not want change. Being “liberal” means they do.
Change is necessary; without it, life becomes stagnant—and no progress is made, but change just for the sake of changing is not always prudent.
But I want to expand on some of the things Hunhoff said and look at how change has always been a part of South Dakota’s history.
Let’s go back to the time of the Civil War and before when the Republican party was the political party of change. There would be no white people in South Dakota had they not wanted change.
Now, let’s jump ahead to 1898 when South Dakota became the first state in the Union to adopt the ability for citizens to independently adopt change by instituting the initiative and referendum process to adopt state laws.
More recently, in 2006, South Dakotans used the referendum to challenge an extremely restrictive abortion law, and that major move by the South Dakota Legislature and governor was defeated by the voters.
Through an initiated measure in 2016, the people of South Dakota voted to limit corruption by elected officials; however, the majority in the Legislature, not wanting to change how much bribery and payola money they could rake in, said, essentially that the South Dakota voters were not smart enough to know what they were voting for and changed to law back to favor their gifts.
THEN, led by Rep. Jon Hansen of District 25 in northern Minnehaha County, the Legislature decided to “fix” the voters by making nearly impossible for grassroots efforts to circulate petitions.
Hansen went on record in the press saying that his measure limits the ability of “out-of-state political hacks” to put measures on the South Dakota ballot.
But Hansen is either lying about his reasons for doing this—or he is really stupid—because the new law he sponsored essentially only allows for “big money” to get measures on the ballot, as they can afford to jump through the hoops Hansen created.
If a grassroots effort does have the wherewithal to get something on the ballot with this new law, it is probably a foregone conclusion that it has the support to win at the polls (think medicinal marijuana and hemp).
But getting back to what Hunhoff had to say…
South Dakota has a long liberal and progressive history; however, he explains the current trend of people in the Legislature trying to block change is being allowed by South Dakotans’ buying into national politics.
Nationally, they are pushing the idea of what a “Republican” should be, and so South Dakotans elect them, even though, when it comes to supporting some of their “benchmark” legislation, the voters rise up against them.
So, looking at the group that Hunhoff said wants to “move and get going,” he was talking about the liberals and progressives.
“The liberals are the workhorses,” he said.
And while he did not say the conservatives were lazy, I got the distinct idea that is what he was getting at.
Why else would anyone constantly be against change, even when history has proven time and time again that change is a part of life?
Hunhoff shared a list of stories of people—liberals—doing “amazing” things around the state to help others.
And he made it clear that these people were doing much more than our elected officials.
I have to admit that my favorite part of his talk came when he referred to Cory and me as the “Thomas Paines of South Dakota.”
As Cory does much more work on the blog than I, he should take top “Thomas Paine” honors, but I will admit that no one has ever given me a better compliment than that!