Friday, August 4, 2017

A Post Wherein I Make A Modest Proposal Guaranteed To Anger Political Purists

Bob Mercer tweeted the following yesterday.

The link will take readers to this quoted tweet.
Without context, it's unclear if Mercer used the appositive "Augustana University faculty member" to show that her statement should be taken as authoritative or if he used it to indicate that her statement causes him to wonder how Wanless maintains her employment with Augustana.

Wanless's statement that South Dakota's two-party system is "polarized" does deserve examination. Polarization is a problem; however, it is not the biggest threat to South Dakota's "2-party system." The lack of a competitive second party is far more concerning.

This series of electoral maps from Nate Silver's site illustrates an obvious point: South Dakota, like the rest of rural America is getting redder.

Original source

Earlier this summer Pat Powers ran posts featuring South Dakota Republican Party Chairperson Dan Lederman, state senator Jim Bolin,  and Mercer contending that Democrats were their own worst enemy. They cited a litany of problems, best summarized by Mercer: "The biggest is turnout. Democrats don’t show up. The second is candidates. Democrats leave more seats open than Republicans do."

I'm going to posit another problem. People lie when they register to vote. According to the South Dakota Secretary of State voter registration numbers, Aurora County should be the most purple county in the state. It has 802 registered Republicans and 799 registered Democrats. In 2016, Donald Trump won 69.2% of the vote. It's difficult to believe recognizable Democrats voted for Trump in those numbers.

To go a step further, fifteen (15) South Dakota Counties have more registered Democrats that Republicans. Trump carried ten (10) of them. Two, Charles Mix and Miner, gave him over 65% of the vote.

Maybe these counties were a hotbed of Bernie Bro activists who voted for Trump's populism to protest what they saw as Clinton's betrayal of their cause, but that's not realistic. I'll take the odds of Franklin Graham converting to Islam in the next year over that possibility. It's more likely that they these registered Democrats don't identify with the Democratic Party and are part of the rural red tidal wave.

Let's get on to the proposal indicated in the post's title. For the purposes of a thought experiment, let's accept three things as true. First, South Dakota Democrats have been woefully inept during the last few election cycles. Second, Republicans have unfairly gerrymandered. Third, as a pair, Trump and Hillary Clinton were the worst major party candidates since Herbert Hoover and Al Smith.

Given those three stipulations, is it rational for anyone to run for the state legislature or any statewide office as a Democrat even if that person is politically moderate, financially well-off, and respected locally or statewide?

The fact is vitriol is often confused with political discourse. Further, a large number of South Dakota's self-identified Democrats voted for Donald Trump.  In fact, flying one's extended family to Disney World for a week seems to make more financial sense than running for a South Dakota political office as a Democrat. It will certainly produce less stress. The odds that such a decision would alter for the worse the number of Democrats in the state legislature are negligible.

The 2016 presidential results and voting trends in rural areas since 1992 indicate a the better option may be for moderate voters to disabuse themselves of the notion that South Dakota has a two-party system and register as Republicans, get active, and attempt to pull that party to the center or, at the very least, prevent it from going over the populist precipice. In areas where Democrats can field quality candidates, moderate voters should swing to Democratic party in the general election.

Currently South Dakota doesn't have a true two party-system. It's unlikely to develop one in the upcoming decade. As it stands, trusting one's neighbors, even those who are registered Democrats, to actually vote for Democrats seems a suckers's bet, so changing the party dynamics seems to be a first step to restoring a small bit of political balance.