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Noem: You Can Come to South Dakota, But You’re Not Allowed to Change It

I sometimes get tired of responding to every stupid thing Kristi Noem says. We know she’s being coached by Corey Lewandowski to provoke controversy to get attention, just as he coached the last guy in the White House to do to cover his policy incompetence and win attention and an office that he did not deserve. Every time I point out the utter cruelty, vanity, selfishness, or otherwise flat-out wrongness of something our Governor says, she and her inner circle chortle again that taking flak means they are over the target—the target being ignorant white apartheidists who want a cowgirl President poster on their wall.

But as with the last guy in the White House, when someone powerful says something powerfully stupid, the community has to notice and respond. When a politician introduces unhealthy ideas into the body politic, critics must respond as that body’s immune system, producing arguments like antibodies to beat back the threat.

At a Chamber of Commerce event in Brandon yesterday, where people sat close together and wore very few masks, Governor Noem said she recognizes the concern some people have that the new people she’s trying to bring to South Dakota might bring unwanted changes to our community. As Joe Sneve reports, Noem said she “believes the newcomers are coming because they like SD and don’t want it to change.” Directly quoting the Governor, Sneve says she told the crowd, “You can come be with South Dakota, you just can’t change us.”

We hear here Noem’s confirmation of the keenly partisan, apartheidist nature of her economic development policy. She isn’t throwing wide the doors of the state to offer economic opportunity to all who are willing to drive their covered wagons here and stake their claims. She only wants people who reaffirm her vision of South Dakota: cowgirly small-minders who praise the Lord, pass the ammunition, and bully anyone who dares not conform. South Dakota is not your land to make better; South Dakota has been made perfect by the white man, who changed South Dakota a lot from the land once held by the red man, but never mind that, because historical logical consistency is not what we’re after. South Dakota will not welcome any further change. We’ll take new followers, but not new leaders or new ideas, which are key to new businesses and new wealth, but never mind that, because economic development is not what we’re after.

Governor Kristi Noem intends to keep South Dakota the way it is forever… because, in her unmitigated selfishness, she cannot envision herself adapting to social circumstances different from those that made her a Snow Queen. She cannot imagine the world being anything different from the world she inherited. She cannot conceive of co-existing with people who don’t look and talk and act like her. She cannot confront difference and diversity as anything other than a rebuke to her policies, her beliefs, and her identity. She must protect her fragile ego by surrounding herself with similar people whose homogeneity she can hold up like a mirror to say, “See? Everyone else is just like me, so I must be right and good and gosh-darned pretty!”

Governor Noem is campaigning to scare away people with different ideas and lifestyles. She is welcoming only the kinds of people who will affirm and elect her. She is trying to freeze South Dakota so that it never changes.

But everything changes. People who cannot navigate and make the best of change end up as scared, bitter cranks who can’t figure out why their neighbors and streets and news shows and bodies can’t be exactly the way they were 30 or 60 years ago. Leaders who cannot navigate change end up driving their communities straight down a curvy road and into the ditch.

I hate giving Kristi Noem the attention she seeks. But she keeps saying things that demonstrate bad ideas and bad leadership that do lasting damage to South Dakota. I love South Dakota enough to accept that it must change to survive. Kristi Noem does not, and that’s bad for all of us.


  1. Nix 2021-04-28 08:47

    I have an idea.
    Ship the golden Donald Trump statue to
    She will be like a moth to a lightbulb. Totally irresistible.
    When she arrives to kiss its ass, we need to enclose the town in a fence similar to the one that she put up at the Governors
    Problem solved.
    It’s 1960 forever …..for her.
    And….Haugaard, Bolin , Milstead and any of those dumasses can visit.
    They can checkout anytime they like,
    But they can never leave.
    (Eagles parody)

  2. Donald Pay 2021-04-28 09:19

    Any time anyone comes or goes from anywhere it changes things. That is what America is. If Noem doesn’t understand this, she doesn’t understand America. Noem would fit right in in Hitler’s Germany.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-04-28 09:30

    Get left or get right behind.. Getting right gets you left behind.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-04-28 09:32

    I’m sure Governor Noem would welcome thousands of people from Puerto Rico. How about having all those people displaced by the hurricane who are now living near Orlando. They could easily move to Rapid or Sioux Falls. They work hard and are great people, plus they are already true Americans. How about all those African American athletes that have played at the University for decades and more rarely at State. They could move to South Dakota and bring families, black lives matter you know, how about a street named that in Pierre? You could expand the areas that Native Americans live in the state and invite other tribes. South Dakota could become very special. I guess you don’t want any immigrants. Too bad you have to shut down the meatpacking plants, who will work them? Oh well, perhaps more Vietnamese Americans can come in. If you would open your mind they could be run by new Central Americans who are awaiting citizenship. They can’t vote yet so its really a win, win for you Kristi.

  5. DaveFN 2021-04-28 11:51

    “You just can’t change us.”

    A testament to pig-headedness if ever there was one.

    Is Noem unable to listen to what comes out of her mouth?

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-04-28 12:03

    It’s not your fault, Governor Noem.
    You’re unfamiliar with new things and new ideas.
    You’re afraid; you’re not to blame.

  7. Buckobear 2021-04-28 12:41

    Ah kristi. Dragging South Dakota kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

  8. RST Tribal Member 2021-04-28 16:04

    So America’s Governor is trying to live in days gone by and the inbred 1 party in power in Pierre and Washington are humoring her because president 45 told them to.

    South Dakota has been attracting carpetbaggers since time immemorial seeking minerals, high usury rates, money concealment, cheat labor, gambling. Bringing minimum regulated development, marginal elementary and secondary education, some pot. Between Buffalo Chip and Standford pentagon there is down home variety. Just minimum diversity.

    South Dakota could do better, but the the deck is stacked again the hers… state and kristi.

    The article laid out what is wrong. There is a fix. South Dakota just can’t get there because its a one-party dominant governance in Pierre and Washington. The state is stuck between stupid and dumber.

  9. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-04-28 21:59

    Noem is tiring to drag us back into the 20th Century.

    Make no mistake. They want fascism light. They want 10% of high school seniors to flunk out. Then they go into low wage retail or the Republican prison system.

    Same people who call Biden a socialist or communist, want everyone to stay down on
    The Plantation. Vote them all out

  10. Don Porter 2021-04-29 09:33

    “You just can’t change us…” (from Gov Noem) sounded odd because it was both a command to outsiders and an unwitting reveal of her intolerance to a lot of what she encounters. The attitude is “we are just fine the way we are…” It underlies a mistrust of science; fear of immigrants; preemptive action on non-existent vaccine passports; stance on marijuana amendment and many other issues. A government driven by this kind of thinking will help to stagnate growth and business in South Dakota

  11. bearcreekbat 2021-04-29 12:06

    Noem brings to mind the old dodge: “My mind is made up, don’t try to confuse me with facts.”

  12. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-04-29 12:14

    Intolerance never builds.

    GovernHer? Impeach. Or get a candidate who will win Rapid City and Lawrence County all the way over to Sioux Falls. It was done in 1972 by Kneip.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-29 21:26

    Related reading, from a review of Julia Galef’s book The Scout Mindset, contrasting the scout mindset that goes out seeking information with an openness to changing one’s beliefs to fit reality with the soldier mindset that picks a side and then only seeks information that defends that position:

    …beliefs are often interconnected, so changing one belief may involve bringing many others into question at the same time. That’s a lot to ask of anybody. In some cases, beliefs are required to maintain social belonging; the heretic risks excommunication. Relatedly, some beliefs become central to a person’s sense of identity; calling those beliefs into question can trigger a response seemingly far out of proportion to the question itself.

    The problem with the soldier mind-set, of course, isn’t merely that it sometimes defends positions that are wrong or counterproductive; it’s that it struggles with any sort of adaptation to changed circumstances or facts. As Galef puts it, its views are inherently brittle. If any movement is interpreted as concession or surrender, then we can expect movement to be resisted [Matt Reed, “Scouts and Power: A Response to Julia Galef,” Inside Higher Ed, 2021.04.26].

    Noem must protect her brittle views by recruiting followers to come live here and insulate her from contrasting views. It must be terrifying working in her cabinet… or just demeaning.

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