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Professor Burns: Democracy Under Attack!

Dr. Bob Burns, the eminence grise of South Dakota political science, rises to the defense of our imperiled democracy and calls on all of us to do the same.

In the smartest letter to the editor you will read in a South Dakota paper this month, SDSU emeritus Burns first backhands our ruling regime with a confession of his long-standing professorial bias and commitment to indoctrinating our youth:

I was honored to teach political science courses at SDSU for 38 years. I confess that during those years I was committed to indoctrinating our students, not with a leftist ideology or an intent to stir division, but with the goal of advancing the principles of representative democracy and the accompanying need to understand and defend those principles in a proactive manner when erosion of those principles occurs as a result of citizen neglect or deliberate citizen ploys.

I did this because I am biased in believing that no other system of governance offers humanity a better opportunity for human “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” [Dr. Bob Burns, letter to the editor, Pierre Capital Journal, 2021.06.21].

Having staked out his position in support of representative democracy, Dr. Burns enumerates the essential principles of this favored system of government, principles about which all American constitutionalists should agree:

While democratic theorists might quibble a bit about the essential elements of an ideal representative democracy, there exists a general consensus that all of the following are essential to a true representative democracy: (1) adherence to the rule of law which includes the fair and equal administration of justice and exempts no one from the application of law, (2) adherence to the principle of simple majority rule versus minority or elitist rule, (3) periodic free elections to hold decision-makers accountable to the people accompanied by a peaceful transfer of power, (4) political equality where all adult citizens enjoy an equal right to vote and have that vote counted and an equal right to seek and hold public office and (5) freedom of expression where persons have the right to criticize those who govern and express their personal secular and religious beliefs without fear of reprisal [Burns, 2021.06.21].

Dr. Burns then lists the threats that “internal authoritarian-minded persons and groups” are posing to each of those principles:

The unequal and prejudicial application of law and the effort of high officials to assert themselves above the law; insistence on super versus simple majorities in ordinary law making at the state and national level; violent and prolonged resistance to fair election results; low income and minority voter suppression initiatives running amuck in over 40 states and new punitive political protest initiatives in 20 some states coupled with official calls for strict adherence to past orthodoxy in teaching U.S. history and civics all constitute cause for alarm [Burns, 2021.06.21].

We can see those attacks on representative democracy at work in South Dakota. Republican legislators are working to change our constitution to require supermajorities to enact citizen initiatives (and they want to enact that change at a primary election, when a minority of voters mostly from their party will decide the issue). Republican legislators have pushed our Governor’s effort to criminalize protest. Republican legislators and the Governor are trying to intimidate teachers into silence on historical fact and important political theories to support their corporatist and white-privilegist agenda.

Our leaders are attacking democracy in broad daylight. We must heed Dr. Burns’s warning and fight these attacks by first getting on the horn one more time to tell those leaders to knock it off, and then, in 2022, voting those who continue to attack our representative democracy right out of office.


  1. John 2021-06-22

    Thank you for share Professor Burns’ lucid analyses with us.
    South Dakota NEEDS the balance of a viable 2-party system.

  2. John 2021-06-22

    The governess and unrepresentative South Dakota legislators ought to be required to attend the annual naturalization ceremony at Mount Rushmore. The naturalization ceremony is the highest and best use of the memorial. It would do the governess and legislators good to see who are the new Americans and what they look like.
    Maybe through measures such as this ceremony, Dr. Burns’ analyses, and new / old holidays like Juneteenth the current republican leaders can re-learn what it means to be an American

  3. Jake 2021-06-22

    Wonder if the 2 major state papers received this great letter? West River GOP followers need to read, ponder these thoughts.

  4. leslie 2021-06-22

    Great comments people!

    GOP’s new Trumpism brand vs democracy. If Americans lose the right to vote (in all its forms) America is lost. GOP is sacrificing democracy for power in changing demographics. Wealthy do not want democracy. They can buy power.

    A frightening fight in this “pawn” of a state, and nationally.

    Thune has learned every move of Mitch McConnell’s. Mitch is only a slightly smarter Trump, who will hurt those needing help with NO compassion. Look at Mitch’s last dozen public statements.

    South Dakota. Our senior senator is John Thune. Gulp! Remember what Thune did to Daschle. Pure hatred. And McConnell is serving Putin knowingly or not. That Thune went to Moscow July 4th speaks loudly of his lack of judgement. How Democrats might compete against his war chest of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars is beyond me, yet Billy Sutton very nearly upset Kristi’s applecart last election.

    Now its a heavily armed right wing, with militias which have infiltrated law enforcement. No wonder “coming to take your guns” is Kristi Noem’s propaganda to stay in power. (I personally believe she is too dumb to climb out of South Dakota back onto the national stage.)

    She has more fresh water than most states, but She wants a jet. OMG. Which one do you think is the next big thing—besides global warming? She could be focused on a state of the art study of water infrastructure. She has multiple universities capable of that, and HAD a DENR stable of scientists. But SHE wants a jet. She WANTS a jet.

  5. leslie 2021-06-22

    Mitch and Thune are most infamous for handing over the SCOTUS 6-3 majority, filling 2nd Amend proponent Scalia’s death with Gorsuch, then Kavanaugh, then Conney Barret. Gun regulation, abortion, civil rights and religious separation are the divisive issues tearing the country away from its democratic roots in favor of millionaires, billionaires and corporate capitalism.

    Recently: “The Ninth Circuit has stayed the district court’s ruling striking down California’s assault weapons ban pending its disposition of two other cases — including the appeal of a ruling striking down CA’s ban on large-capacity magazines, which is set to be argued en banc….” twttr

  6. leslie 2021-06-22

    Man pulls gun on Starbucks barista over cream cheese

    Affordable Care Act survives third Supreme Court challenge, as case from Trump administration & GOP-led states is rejected. Clarence Thomas & Neal Gorsuch dissented. twttr

    Bloomberg News: Unvaccinated America. These counties may prolong the epidemic—for us all. Disinfo kills. (US map shows 480 some counties—most of SD). @USATODAY Doctors say there are multiple reasons people aren’t yet vaccinated. There are the hesitant, who still have questions and sometimes fall prey to misinformation, and the opposed, who often harbor anti-government or anti-science sentiments. And some still can’t easily access it.

  7. Eve Fisher 2021-06-22

    Bob Burns was a towering presence over in History / Political Science at SDSU. And he is 100% correct on this.

  8. Mark Anderson 2021-06-22

    Dr. Burns is correct, but now his principles of democracy are seen as partisan by the trumpies. Its simple they don’t follow any of them and also make the news media out to be the enemy of the people. The Republicans are following a simple path to short term victory. The Democrats have to have a big vote win to even win by a little. The pubs lie, cheat, and steal, they aren’t in any way the peoples representatives but they don’t care. In the long term its a losing strategy so they are abandoning any pretense of following the vote. They plan to be the ruling elite that they castigate in their speeches. Just keep calling them out.

  9. Black Hills Hermit 2021-06-22

    I second Eve Fisher’s comment, and hope that Dr. Burns’ insightful analysis is given broad dissemination both in our state and beyond. Well done (as always) Dr. Burns!

  10. Bob Newland 2021-06-22

    “…the goal of advancing the principles of representative democracy and the accompanying need to understand and defend those principles in a proactive manner….”

    If that ain’t a subversive leftie commie goal, what is?

  11. Guy 2021-06-22

    Independent, that’s who I am. I lived in two radically different states: Oregon & South Dakota. Both are run by one-party systems: the corrupt Democrats run Oregon and the corrupt Republicans run South Dakota. The Oregon Democrats play the same crooked games as the South Dakota Republicans to hold on to power.

  12. leslie 2021-06-23

    “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
    ….Our leaders [were] attacking democracy in broad daylight.”

    Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department [Mike Pompeo].”

  13. leslie 2021-06-23

    Pray it was not a Jan. 6 Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Three Percenters or related militia’s training contract

  14. Guy 2021-06-23

    I don’t need to read any opinion articles, I actually lived in Oregon. But, thank you.

  15. leslie 2021-06-23

    You said: “Oregon Democrats play the same crooked games….”

    Yes you said previously you lived there. I know OR is a hotbed politically but it is also where nearly every young person i kno has chosen for a relocated home. Where Ammon Bundy chose to make a stand. Where Gen Harney likely killed Indians for sport.

    Prove it? One link?

  16. bearcreekbat 2021-06-23

    “My mind is made up so don’t confuse me with facts” is the apparent translation of the phrase “I don’t need to read any opinion articles, I actually lived in Oregon.” A review of the article linked by leslie indicates that it is primarily a report on the facts of what it describes rather than some statement describing the author’s opinion rather than actual facts. A commenter’s arbitrary dismissal of such an article with a factually unsupported false claim that the article is a mere “opinion” reveals plenty about the accuracy and credibility of the commenter’s previous and future statements and assertions.

  17. Jake 2021-06-23

    The Rapid City Journal carried Burn’s excellent article today. Good reading, I hope West River gives it some ‘critical’ thought-thought outside of the narrow box of thought usually spread by Fox News. There is hope though; some Republicans such as John Tsitrian have seen thru the haze and obfuscation of current GOP tactics, George Will-another strong conservative also. The GOP Cheneys may be few, but at least some of the GOP DO think of country first.

  18. Guy 2021-06-23

    I am, indeed, sharing “my opinion” from living in both Oregon and South Dakota. You should not take what I say as “fact”. Just as I do not take what you say as “fact”. Cory is providing a forum to freely share opinions. I believe there is nothing wrong with that. I might add, that sharing article links are great, but, remember they are coming from another person sharing their opinion. Just remember: opinions are often shared as “facts” and most news organizations, including educational organizations have often passed off their articles or research as “facts,” but, that does not necessarily make it so. I’ve stated before that I am politically Independent because I don’t trust either political party and I have not supported one for at least 15 years. So, maybe I did “arbitrarily dismiss” the article that was shared. If I did, it’s because I’m frankly tired of that approach. To be honest, I’m here to have frank discussions on different opinions and views with those on the forum and I’m not at all interested in having to research a lot of different articles that may or may not be true. I’ve done my share of that when I was a college student and a journalist. I’m not on this forum to do college research. What I stated earlier was my “opinion”: that I’ve lived in both Oregon and South Dakota and I have seen what one-party rule has led to in each state: corruption – and I do not feel at this time that I need to elaborate. If you feel that I have no “credibility” in expressing my opinions or views on this subject or any other article Cory writes, that is completely fine with me. You certainly have a right to dismiss my views and I respect that.

  19. Porter Lansing 2021-06-23

    This “Guy” is the full embodiment of “South Dakota Contrary.”

    No commitment to anything other than disagreeing with each and every assertion with little to no reason, other than to quell his boredom from living where he lives.

    What an empty shirt.

    Tell us, Guy. Have you ever lived in Oregon? heh Heh Ho

  20. Guy 2021-06-23

    Well, I may be an “empty shirt” and the “full embodiment of South Dakota Contrary” to you…and… that’s fine if you believe that of me. I’m 45 years old now and when you reach my age, you become perfectly comfortable and accepting of yourself – faults and all. I do not have justify myself to anyone. I am here on Cory’s forum to discuss my opinions, perspectives, views and what I’ve learned in life. One valuable thing that I’ve learned in life is to accept yourself for who you are. be happy with who you truly are, respect others, and try to find solutions to help all of us “little guys and gals”. Thus far, I have shared what I’ve learned about co-op business development and how it can help us “little guys and gals” on the prairie. Please, at least hear me out on co-ops. In four years, I learned a lot about how co-ops help in building member-owned businesses and communities. I’m not here to tell you that I know more about co-ops, but, to share what I’ve learned thus far on how they can really transform an economic system, politics, and our lives. I really believe if you give me the time to explain in future posts concerning business, you will be enlightened on how we can really change this corrupt game. But, you have to be willing to open your minds and give me that opportunity. It’s really up to you.

  21. Porter Lansing 2021-06-23

    Let’s work on your delivery, then.

    You used the word “I” twenty five times in the post previous and run sentences on like no journalist I’ve ever read.

    Are you sure you were a “real” journalist?

  22. Guy 2021-06-23

    Porter, I’m not going to get personal with you on Cory’s blog. Porter, I do NOT see you or Leslie as an adversary. We just have different views and that’s a great thing. I will not get personal and nasty with anyone on this forum. I’m too old for that and it solves absolutely nothing. I embrace diversity because, I myself, do not care for “cookie-cutter” assimilation – that crap makes me puke. I really enjoy learning from other’s views – whether I agree or disagree. I share my views as well, and we all try to learn from each others views. I did admit earlier that I did not care about sharing article links. The reason for that is – whether I’m right or wrong – I’m frankly tired of that approach. I’ve been through that. At my age, I really do not want to have to read hundreds of different posted article links. I like to read everyone’s views and formulate my opinions from that. I’m not posting my opinions as “facts”. I believe, true “facts” speak for themselves and that most people, in time, will separate fact from fiction. Just chalk that up to my faith in life.

  23. Guy 2021-06-23

    …And yes, Porter, you are correct. At second glance, I have used some run-on sentences. I’ll try to work on not doing that in the future.

  24. Porter Lansing 2021-06-23

    You sound like a good guy. Pun intended.

    Welcome to Cory’s Blog.

    Co-Op’s are important.

    In SD they’re denounced as socialism, however almost everyone shops at Costco.

  25. Guy 2021-06-24

    Porter, you are correct that many in the business community dismiss co-ops as “socialism” because they see them as a threat. Those who live and work in businesses that thrive on “maximizing profit” feel threatened by cooperatives because the place priority on meeting the essential needs of their member-owners over profit. Yep, that view shared by co-ops really gets to the “heart of the matter” of what we need to reform in our economic system.

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