National Review must be getting under Kristi Noem’s skin. Last week the conservative reporter Nate Hochman picked our part-time Governor apart for her faux-conservative corporate opportunism, complete with this ringing undorsement from Republican Representative John Mills:
“I think one of the most common words that I have heard in recent years in relation to the governor is ‘disappointment,’” says John Mills, a Republican lawmaker representing South Dakota’s House District 4. “And you know, many of us who had high hopes for her have felt that disappointment” [Nate Hochman, “Who Is Kristi Noem, Really?” National Review, 2021.09.15].
Then yesterday National Review‘s Stanley Kurtz called on Governor Noem to keep her white-supremacist pledge and stop the implementation of critical race theory in South Dakota’s K-12 social studies curriculum standards. Kurtz opens with this self-indicting sentence:
Hard-left activists have taken over the writing of K-12 history and civics standards in ruby-red South Dakota [Stanley Kurtz, “Noem Must Fix South Dakota Standards Fiasco,” National Review, 2021.09.20].
Suggesting that hard-left activists control anything in South Dakota other than the menu at Josiah’s proves that the author has no useful knowledge of South Dakota and is hoisting the usual right-wing strawmen to lash with his wet noodle.
The typical and probably most sensible response of a South Dakota Governor to such out-of-state criticism is to ignore it, or at most backhandedly dismiss it as a “hit piece” and move on, letting everyone in South Dakota forget about it by Friday football night.
But within hours of the publication of the Kurtz article, Governor Noem has let it drive her to a sudden policy change. Last week, after local protest over removal of references to American Indian culture from the draft social studies standards, Governor Noem said she hasn’t been a part of the the standards revision process. But after National Review‘s ill-fitting critique, Governor Noem has taken over the process, ordering the Department of Education to delay drafting the standards for up to a year:
The Department of Education changed the working group’s recommendations to the social studies standards significantly, but it is clear to me that there needs to be more public input to bring greater balance and emphasis on our nation’s true and honest history. Following public feedback from several constituencies, it is clear there is more work to be done to get this right.
“We will be delaying further formal action on the draft social study standards to allow more opportunity for public input, increased legislative engagement, and additional voices to be heard in this discussion.
“Our focus remains the same: ensuring that South Dakota students learn a true and honest account of American and South Dakota history [Gov. Kristi Noem, press release, 2021.09.20].
But the Department of Education already delayed the first public meeting on the standards by five weeks to allow more public comment and said public meetings will continue into next year. Noem says her delay will allow the Legislature to do what she asked in her July 29 executive “order” and ban the teaching of critical race theory and civic engagement… which ban, of course, represents the exact opposite of teaching students a “true and honest account” of history. [Bonus points for students who can find any reason Kristi’s “true” and “honest” are not redundant.] But even without Noem’s order to delay, the Board of Education Standards wasn’t going to vote on approving the final draft until spring 2022, after the Legislative Session, and schools weren’t going to be implementing the new standards until fall 2023. So it’s not clear that the Governor needed to delay the standards process to achieve either of her stated goals.
But one national commentator squawks, and Governor Noem throws the regular schedule of curriculum review in South Dakota into disarray.
We thus encounter one more danger of Kristi Noem’s full-time campaign for the Presidency. Now that she is playing to the national audience, she is subject to analysis and attack from national reporters, commentators, and special interests who have no real knowledge or concern with what’s happening in South Dakota but will attempt to influence Noem’s statements and actions to promote their own political agendae. And Kristi Noem, desperate to win the attention and primary affection of a national base, will sit up, bark, and roll over for those national calls, shaping South Dakota policy with her eyes on the national press she’ll get and not the consequences we locals will have to live with.
Like Jason Ravnsborg behind the wheel, Kristi Noem is engaged in distracted governing, with her eyes on her national pundit-feeds and not the South Dakota policy road. She wants her name in all those headlines, all those tweets! And while she’s scrolling all that national trolling, she won’t notice who or what she runs over here at home.