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Noem Stuffs Fake Exceptionalism into Rushmore Presidents’ Mouths in Fearmongering Fundraising Letter to Texas

Kristi Noem continues to campaign like Annette Bosworth, glomming on to the best Fox-fueled fearmongering to convince a national audience to send her money. Check out this latest screamer, which Noem sent to a suburban Dallas Democrat whose closest connection to South Dakota Republicans is sending money this cycle to Wyoming Senator Liz Cheney, whom Noem wants to drive out of the Senate:

Kristi for Governor, campaign fundraising letter to Democrat in Texas, received by DFP May 2022.
Kristi for Governor, campaign fundraising letter to Democrat in Texas, received by DFP May 2022.
Kristi for Governor, insert in campaign fundraising letter to Democrat in Texas, received by DFP May 2022.
Note the awkward extra space left next to Lincoln…likely for donors who want to Sharpie in Trump or Noem. Kristi for Governor, insert in campaign fundraising letter to Democrat in Texas, recipient redacted, received by DFP May 2022.
Kristi for Governor, donor response insert in fundraising letter to Texas Democrat, identifiers redacted, received by DFP May 2022.
Kristi for Governor, donor response insert in fundraising letter to Texas Democrat, identifiers redacted, received by DFP May 2022.

Noem is running for Governor of South Dakota, but her main letter doesn’t mention South Dakota except as part of Noem’s title. Her enclosed response letter for dupes says South Dakota is a “flashpoint” in the “fight” Noem says she is waging against “Joe Biden, the radical Left, the mainstream media, and those who would seek to ‘cancel’ both our history and our freedom,” but she doesn’t say anything about specific policies she has enacted in South Dakota to fight those enemies. She doesn’t mention her actual South Dakota challengers, perhaps out of politeness (ha!), but perhaps out of recognition that neither Steven Haugaard nor Jamie Smith represents the left-wing threat that Noem says is out there trying to light Mount Rushmore on fire.

Noem tries to give her angry, paranoid rantings a gloss of Founding Fatherism but ends up warping Martin Luther King into an ahistorical ascription of Pax Americaniana to American Presidents who knew no such thing:

In the face of these threats, I think a lot—

Noem loses attentive readers with that laugh line, but let’s continue:

—about the faces carved on Mt. Rushmore.

Washington. Jefferson. Roosevelt. Lincoln.

They didn’t just defend freedom when convenient or politically expedient. They understood that America is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and that a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.

So you and I must follow their example—or else we’ll lose our country [Kristi Noem, fundraising letter to Texas Democrat, received by DFP May 2022].

America is the greatest force for good the world has ever known—Noem mimics a line used by Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Sarah PalinBob Dole, and many others to justify using America’s power to impose America’s sense of democratic and capitalist order on the world. Washington and Jefferson engaged in no such imperialism; they preferred our isolation and disentanglement. Lincoln didn’t see America as a great global force to go looking for threats to freedom anywhere and everywhere; he was too busy keeping the country from tearing itself apart on this continent to pay much attention to anything else. Theodore Roosevelt turned the nation briefly outward, but only to flex our muscle to protect our interests in Latin America, not pretend to the title of Globe’s Greatest Freedom Fighter.

Lincoln certainly expressed American exceptionalism, but his vision of America’s special mission was nothing like history-hating Noem’s rah-rah-bushwah that this letter sloppily imputes to him:

Even more striking is the insistent humility of Lincoln’s exceptionalism. His was very much a self-doubting, self-examining exceptionalism: he believed in the American mission with religious fervor, but maintained a healthy skepticism toward its mortal agents. Throughout his presidency, Lincoln stressed human fallibility, both individual and collective, and even in the midst of a horrifically bloody civil war – in the midst of what you might call partisanship run amok – he refused to vilify or demonize the south. Slavery was a national, not exclusively southern, sin, and he was insistent about reminding the north of its complicity and profit in the slave economy. Even the Gettysburg address, delivered at the site of the north’s greatest victory, is about as far from triumphant as one can imagine. No “Mission Accomplished” banners for Lincoln. No thumping chants of U-S-A! U-S-A!

“Manic-depressive Lincoln, national hero!” wrote Delmore Schwartz in a poem from the 1950s, and one could probably construct a decent argument that Lincoln’s private suffering was part of what made him a genuine hero. He understood pain, loss, guilt; in the Bible he found the language to express this dark side of experience and bring it into the political realm. It was the language of reflection; the language of atonement. Lincoln’s gospel of American exceptionalism depended in large degree on recognizing just how flawed and morally susceptible are the human vessels charged with fulfilling the mission. The Declaration may have stated the truth of equality, “the standard maxim for a free society”, but “[e]nforcement” of the maxim would be a continual and messy process, “constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated” [Ben Fountain, “American Exceptionalism: The Great Game and the Noble Way,” The Guardian, 2016.04.09].

But hey, Noem’s not writing history here. Nor is she writing to South Dakota voters about South Dakota issues. Mount Rushmore and the great Presidents depicted thereupon are for her mere mascots, foam figures whom she may command to dance to whatever tune she wishes to play to separate far-off and fearful donors from their money.

Tom, did we say that? South Dakota Tourism Mount Rushmore mascots, screen cap from KEVN-TV, 2021.05.16.
Tom, did we say that? South Dakota Tourism Mount Rushmore mascots, screen cap from KEVN-TV, 2021.05.16.


  1. bearcreekbat 2022-05-16

    Genuine facts about history, as well as current events, have become an anathema to Republican fundraisers these days.

  2. Mark 2022-05-16

    CAH: I can well imagine Liz Cheney someday serving in the Senate, I’m certain, for now, that her energy is focused on keeping her House seat.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-05-16

    Well , if the Supreme Court allows it and it seems possible, we can all have slaves Iike Washington and Jefferson. I’d feel kinda squeamish about sleeping with a fourteen year old, but those were different times after all. We must follow their example, or we’ll lose our country.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-05-16

    You know, Payton Gendron also hates Critical Race Theory. He and people like him are an important subgroup of the Republican party. Noem knows how to get things done, just like Payton.

  5. Mark Anderson 2022-05-16

    You know Cory, apart from the Noem stuff. I love Delmore Schwartz. When I first started teaching I was in Reno, Nevada and rented a room from a dear elderly lady who taught at the school. A childhood friend of hers visited who had taken Schwartz at Harvard. Later in life I was lucky to have Laurie Anderson visit with our students and I gave her a copy of Schwartz’s translation of Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell to give to Lou Reed. It was a rare and cherished book but I hoped to touch back someone who helped transform my life. If you want a great reading, read Schwartz’s poem about the Seurat painting now in Chicago, Sunday Afternoon along the Seine.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-05-16

    Mrs. Noem sure knows which side of her bread bed gets buttered, init?

    Yes, it never ceases to amuse how Republicans paint Democrats as the party of slavery then praise the slaveowners who penned not just the Bill of Rights but the Declaration of Independence, too.

    Washington and Jefferson for sure would be horrified to learn the US is operating on a manual written in the Eighteenth Century and the other two would be putting American Indigenous in concentration camps arguing it’s for their own protection.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-16

    Governor Noem doesn’t like History. History makes her feel sad. Governor Noem likes Conservative “think tank” talking points. Conservative talking points make her feel happy and hopeful. She also seems attached to SECURE POUCHES. So, secure your pouch and send cash, US dollars please. Cash is King.

  8. 96Tears 2022-05-16

    Annette was more believable than America’s Party Girl Kristi Noem. I mean, look at the conviction in Annette’s eyes as she wields her half cocked Glock in one hand and The Good Book in the other.

    ‘Merica. Gotta love it.

  9. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-16

    I find our history in protecting our ‘interests’ throughout time and geographically a burden born by the enlisted and conscripted for the benefit of the moneyed elite.. It seems we define our interests and then go to foreign lands to protect said interests. Sounds remarkably like colonialism. War is truly a racket.

  10. SDBlue 2022-05-16

    Don’t you just love being called radical by an absent, corrupt, shameless, authoritarian, theocrat who wants to dictate what teachers teach, dictate what women do with their bodies, mandate the LGBTQ community back into the closet, and force her religion upon everyone while wasting our money on national self-promotion?

    She is some piece of work.

    I sincerely hope SD is done voting with their dicks in November. I’m so tired of this crap.

  11. scott 2022-05-16

    Noem will do anything for a buck.

  12. All Mammal 2022-05-17

    Did the guy wearing the American flag durag on his cue-bald head manifest Kristi Noem?
    Or is Kristi Noem responsible for creating the patriotic durag ensembled man?
    Philosophical minds must get to the bottom of this debate.

  13. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-17

    Arlo writes ‘Cash is King’
    I started thinking about the concept of Cash, particularly donations to politicians, PACs, political parties, etc. When I contribute money to a person/cause in which I believe, that money is taxed as ordinary income and with maximum social security/medicare rates. I don’t imagine the Koch Brothers money contributed to ALEC, PACs or politicians is taxed at these rates; so some contributions provide more speech than mine. Just wondering if this makes sense? I know nothing can be made of it as it seems our government is the best money can buy. Which means we suck.

  14. sx123 2022-05-17

    Impose ‘cruel’ mask mandates? Since when is freedom about not being able to attack public health problems? Threats of nature are a bit more complex than the simplistic “I’ll do what I want” mentality can successfully counter. The nation is not truly free anyhow, at least not in the sense of being able to do whatever one wants. (People are not allowed absolute freedom, for various reasons. General safety is one of them.)

    Hiding behind God and the church. “If I die, I die. If someone else dies, it was meant to be. All part of God’s plan.”
    __ Pure laziness is what it is. __

    (Note to Noem: All my kids have survived wearing masks in grade school and college. They have not been mentally set back. They still somehow manage to socialize. Quit demonizing experts. They know stuff you don’t.)

  15. Peter Carrels 2022-05-17

    This is impressive journalism, Cory. And excellent commentary. Thank-you. This material grows my already considerable worries about Governor Noem.

  16. O 2022-05-17

    The Founding Father’s politics have become much like “God’s word” to white christian nationalists in that they have become twisted to provide divine providence to whatever WCN has decided to do. Instead of using what is truly the inspiration and philosophy behind those guiding principles to move in ways that just might be different from what they selfishly want for solely their own benefit.

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