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Five reasons why Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin might squeak through

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existentialist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-23-10 12:02 PM
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Five reasons why Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin might squeak through

Make no mistake, I do not write this essay in support of Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. I am, in fact, greatly upset with her performance as my representative in the House. I do not like many of the positions and votes she has takenincluding with regard to health care, but also with regard to pay day loans and credit card businesses. Furthermore, I am substantially irked with the mealy mouthed both sides of an issue statements coming out of her office both in the public media and in response to letters written back to constituents on particular issues. This irked me no end even when she occasionally ended up taking a position with which I agreed. But I will try to be somewhat objective, and I hope that this effort, while directly focused on Ms. Herseth-Sandlins reelection prospects, may illuminate a number of related facts related to the political dynamics of South Dakota and the United States.

First, the South Dakota Democratic Party recently made a good move that will help not only Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, but all Democratic candidates. They changed the primary election rules to allow independents to vote in the Democratic primary in South Dakota. For decades (since I was a child at least) the rule in primary elections was that Democrats could vote only in the Democratic primary, Republicans could vote only in the Republican primary, and independents could not vote in any primary. This had the effect, in highly Republican South Dakota, of swelling the ranks of the Republican Party because (as my mother explained to me more than 40 years ago) she and my father registered Republican not out of any great love or preference for Republicans, but because in South Dakota you had to register in one party or the other to vote in any primary, and most of the time it was the Republican primary that mattered.

By changing this rule, and thus becoming more independent friendly, they encourage independents to become more Democrat friendly. It has long been a reasonably well known axiom of politics that when a voter votes for one candidate in a primary (s)he is highly likely to vote for that candidate again in the general. While I believe that to be true, the rule change goes beyond that. It also sends a signal to independents that the Democratic Party welcomes them generally. The Republicans in this era, are sending out a contradictory signal that if you dont toe the extremely conservative party line, then they dont want you participating in their partys internal decision making.

Second, and related to the first point, Mark St. Pierre, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, will be running against Republican Senator John Thune as an independent even if no Democrat opposes him on the ballot. This will help bring people to the polls to vote against Thune, and once there many will also vote for Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin even though they couldnt get up enough enthusiasm to go to the pollsin some cases driving or catching a ride for perhaps 30 miles or moreto vote for her. But once there, as opposed to the Republican wing nut who will be up against her, they will most likely vote for Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. This will be a larger factor in Indian country than in the rest of the State. Indians in South Dakota tend to vote heavily Democratic if they vote at all. In some elections the Indian vote has gone 95% Democratic. But its not that Indians are enthusiastic Democratsfar from it. As one South Dakota Indian stated that the Indian preference for Democrats in South Dakota is like a preference for having one eye gouged out as opposed to having both eyes gouged out. They dont tend to trust Democrats either and for good reason. But the Republicans have, of late, done quite a bit to remind them about the unpleasantness of having both eyes gouged out, and if Indians can find a reason to make it to the polls, then most likely they will vote for Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin.

The importance of the Indian vote should be neither overestimated nor underestimated. Indians make up perhaps 9 to 10% of the electorate in South Dakota. But if 9% of the electorate shows up and votes 95% to 5%, then thats a margin of 90% x 9% = 8.1% that has to be made up from the rest of the population. If South Dakota Native Americans turn out and vote as speculated above, then non-Indians would have to vote more than 54% to 46% in favor of the Republican to make up that difference.

Third, there are also a number of other local offices for which Indians have begun to run, and sometimes win, both as independents, and as Democrats. One of the local county commissioners is Native American. Back in 2008 in Dewey County one Native American was elected as county commissioner, and another was elected as county coroner. There is also, in the county where I now reside, another Native American who will be running for sheriff (as an independent). This is also Indian County, and this relates to, and magnifies the factors outlined above.

Fourth, even though the South Dakota Democrats dont have a candidate for the U.S. Senate this year, they will have a candidate for governor. He is an underdog, but if, as looks likely, the Republicans choose a wing nut as their candidate for governor, then Scott Heidepriem might just have a chance, and a competitive election that brings voters in general to the polls will help Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. If this is going to be a close election, and I think it will be, then Scott Heidepriem will help Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, and if every vote counts may well make the difference.

Fifth, (the title states FIVE REASONS WHY STEPHANIE HERSETH-SANDLIN JUST MIGHT SQUEAK THROUGH)well, this fifth reason might not sound like much. It isnt much. But it is one vote, and if every vote counts it might make the difference, and this reason is, that despite my present ire with Ms. Herseth-Sandlin, and despite all my misgivings concerning her, if she doesnt do too much more to upset me, and if her opposition isas expecteda wing nut, I too am likely to find myself voting for her sorry ass.
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