While part-time Governor Kristi Noem runs away to promote herself in Las Vegas and Pennsylvania, the Republican spin blog she sponsors fires some flak at her primary challenger, Representative Steven Haugaard.
After Noem’s spending on expensive rugs and a sauna for her 2019 move into the Governor’s mansion came to light Monday, candidate Haugaard criticized Noem’s mansion updates as part of a pattern of self-indulgent extravagance at taxpayer expense that belies her professed fiscal conservatism. On Twitter, Haugaard noted the SDSU Collegian‘s swift condemnation of Noem’s luxury purchases and followed up with a pitch to college students to work for his campaign.
Hoping we will ignore the core question—how can Kristi claim to be conservative when she spends so much of our money on herself?—Noem’s spin machine seizes on that last point and tries to impugn Haugaard for voting against 2021 Senate Bill 171, in which Noem and the SDGOP gave up years of resistance and finally approved a need-based college scholarship fund:
Unfortunately, Steve doesn’t feel the same way about putting them first to help them attend college….
And as you’ll note, he’s joined in his opposition to the needs based freedom scholarships was also joined by fellow candidate Taffy Howard.
Senate Bill 171 was to endow the scholarship with $50 million, an investment that has grown nearly four-fold, at $175 million and counting.
It’s one way the state is trying to keep top talent in the state, instead of forcing them to go elsewhere.
Interestingly, at the Lincoln County Lincoln Day Dinner as it was related to me, a number of College Republicans were fuming as Haugaard took them aside and was ‘steve-splaining’ why this scholarship was not something the state should do. It went over about as well as you think it would [Pat Powers, “Gubernatorial Candidate Haugaard Seeking College Students to Work on Campaign. After Opposing Need Based Scholarships to Help Them with College,” Dakota War College, 2021.12.03].
This response from Noem’s lackey, like most of Team Noem’s responses to honest criticism of the Governor, hilariously mismashes euphemism and self-contradiction.
- The core argument is that handouts to students are good and that students thus should not support any candidate who doesn’t offer them handouts. That position sounds like a clarion call from a Republican for all college students to sign up to campaign for Bernie Sanders.
- The last time we voted for Governor, Kristi Noem wasn’t saying anything about need-based scholarships. Democratic candidate Billie Sutton was the only one saying we needed to catch up with other states in spending state money to help low-income students pay for college. By the SDGOP spin blog’s own argument, the college students who helped the Noem campaign in 2018 were all misguided.
- Republicans for years resisted creating need-based college scholarships, leaving South Dakota as the last state to provide such assistance. If college students are to scorn Haugaard for his conservative vote against this year’s bill (which still relies largely on private funding—see #6—and lucky gimmick-surplus dollars, not full investment from our cheapskate Republican Legislature, and which won’t pay college students’ bills until next school year), are they also wise to avoid volunteering for the campaigns of Representatives Chris Karr, Rhonda Milstead, Tom Pischke, Bethany Soye, and Speaker Spencer Gosch, who voted with Haugaard against this year’s scholarship bill? Should college students abandon Senators Greenfield, Duhamel, Bolin, and Novstrup for abandoning a need-based scholarship plan in 2020? Should young volunteers shun Reps. Jon Hansen and Fred Deutsch, who resisted a scholarship bill in 2019? Does this argument exist now as an overarching principle or merely an excuse of the moment to defend the party’s Snow Queen by distraction?
- The spin blog says College Republicans were “fuming” over Rep. Haugaard’s explanation of his opposition to giving them more handouts. Again, that makes the College Republicans sound like the free-college Sandersnistas whom the Republicans usually ridicule.
- Instead of addressing Haugaard’s argument, the SDGOP spin blog tries to dismiss his argument as “steve-splaining.” Co-opting an originally feminist term reeks enough of smirking Republican hypocrisy. But the intellectually lazy notion that you can dismiss an argument simply by putting your target’s name on it carries shades of the cancel culture that Republicans usually cry about. Can we dismiss everything the SDGOP spin blog publishes as “Pat-splaining”? Can we dismiss all the excuses the Governor’s spokesboy puts out as “Fury-splaining?” If that were the case, why would I bother writing 800-word blog posts? Governor Noem issues another press release—Pish-tosh! Kristi-splaining!
- The “investment” (notice how Republicans, too, can use “investment” to refer to big government spending they like) has not “grown”. The state is pledging $50 million to match the much larger private dollars that led the way to the creation of this scholarship fund.
If the SDGOP spin blog wants to argue that college students should not volunteer for candidates who don’t support students and higher education in general, that’s fine. But the logical conclusion for student’s taking that advice is to run from any South Dakota Republican candidate and sign on to carry petitions, placards, and parade candy for Democrats.
Or at the very least, if students are going to stick with Kristi, they should at least demand a nice rug and a sauna for the dorm.