Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

It’s Time to Dump DADT

Posted: Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 1:07 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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achilles-florathexploraThere is a chance that the Lame Duck Congress will repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, thus allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the American military.  I confess two reservations.  One is this gives Obama, Reid, and Pelosi a significant victory.  That is a purely partisan reaction, hence the confession.  Let yea who are prepared to cast the first stone first inspect the content of your own character.

The other is that I don’t like major policy decisions being made in this way: hurry up and pass the damn thing while there are still enough Democrats to make it happen.  That is clearly an undemocratic maneuver, as the people have spoken regarding the makeup of Congress.  But I know too much, I confess, to think that such maneuvers aren’t part of politics in a Republic.  Laws and sausage.

I turn then to the last resort of political deliberation: considering the wisdom of the policy.  I am not much moved by the fact that the big brass has come out in favor of repealing DADT.  The American military is, let us count our blessings, firmly under the control of the civilian government.  If Congress wants women integrated into the armed forces, the military will go along.  If the President wants the Joint Chiefs to endorse repeal, endorse they will.

I am not more impressed by the Pentagon study that found a low risk of disruption if gay and lesbian persons are allowed to serve “openly” in the military.  Again, I suspect that the Pentagon knew what the answer was going to be before they spent nine months answering it.  Besides, the Democrats in Congress were prepared to push the repeal well before the study was completed.  Why should anyone else take the study more seriously?

What does move me is that I have listened to a lot of debates between proponents and opponents of repeal and the latter always seem at a loss for a good argument.  The only significant argument I hear against repeal focuses on “unit cohesion”.  If I understand this right, the fear is that enlisted homosexuals will never be fully accepted by their fellow men and women at arms.  Thus the unit with an openly gay member will never be the happy band of brothers imagined by Shakespeare’s Henry Five, let alone the band of brothers and sisters imagined by Congress.

This strikes me as a very bad argument.  There are all kinds of reasons why one solider might be disinclined to trust another.  He’s Irish, or a Democrat.  She’s a privileged White girl, or a Red Sox fan.  It is one of the jobs of soldiers, sailors, marines, etc., to judge their fellows by their competence and loyalty and nothing else.  We expect our armed forces to do their job in harm’s way, which means in the face of a kind of fear that us civilians can scarcely imagine.  Compared to that, nervousness about a fellow warrior’s sexual orientation seems like pretty small potatoes.

The men and women who serve in our armed forces must be mentally and physically prepared for the job.  They must be scrupulously loyal to the Republic and to the chain of command.  If they are otherwise law-abiding, that is enough.

The controversy serves only as a proxy for larger cultural tensions.  It is a distraction.  It’s time to get rid of DADT.

Ethanol: Immortal & Immoral

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:45 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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Insane-Clown-Energy-DrinkIt looks like the President and the Lame Duck Democrats have cut a deal with Republicans.  The country can breathe a sigh of relief that taxes won’t go up across the board on January 1st.  Another sigh of relief is coming from the ethanol industry.  From the Washington Post:

The White House and key lawmakers cleared the way Thursday night for swift Senate action to avert a Jan. 1 spike in income taxes for nearly all Americans, agreeing to extend breaks for ethanol and other forms of alternative energy as part of the deal.

I don’t find a lot to cheer in this.  It is widely assumed that a significant tax increase would be another shock to an already weak economy.  That might well be true, but maybe it would have done more good for Congress to show that it was serious about getting our fiscal house in order.

As for extending the ethanol subsides, I’m all for it.  I live in South Dakota and work for the state.  We have a lot more ethanol plants than beach volleyball courts.  I figure what floats the state economy floats me, and I am worried about the sinking of fiscal real estate hereabouts.

Of course, ethanol subsidies make no sense on any other grounds.  Ethanol production doesn’t increase our “energy independence”, whatever that might mean.  It takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the gallon actually contains.  That extra energy isn’t coming from wind towers.  Over the next five years, these subsides will cost us over $25 billion dollars.

Ethanol production doesn’t yield any environmental benefit and certainly none at a reasonable cost.  From Forbes:

Australian academic Robert Niven found that ethanol gasoline lets out more harmful air toxins than regular gasoline. The Congressional Budget Office finds that taxpayers are shelling out $750 for every metric ton (2,205 pounds) of carbon kept out of our atmosphere. To put that in perspective, the carbon-offset company Terrapass values the reduction of 1,000 pounds of emissions at a mere $5.95.

When you add up the environmental costs of corn production, the equation looks much worse.  Virgin prairie has been plowed up to produce corn for fuel.  The machines that work the fields aren’t solar powered.  From Pajamas Media:

A gallon of ethanol emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than a gallon of gasoline when combusted. However, CO2-emitting fossil fuels are used to make fertilizer, operate farm equipment, power ethanol distilleries, and transport the ethanol to market. In addition, when farmers plow grasslands and clear forests to expand corn acreage, or to grow food crops displaced elsewhere by energy crop production, they release carbon previously locked up in soils and trees. For several decades, such land use changes can generate more CO2 than is avoided by substituting ethanol for gasoline.

Ethanol production raises the price of gasoline and it raises the price of food.  Tariffs keep cheaper ethanol produced south of the border out of the U.S. market, which makes the system all the more expensive but is probably an act of Christian charity.  Diverting corn to ethanol production raises the price of tortillas which results in hungrier children.

But hey, as long as it brings money to the Dakotas and Barry’s own Illinois, why should I complain?  The issue has made odd bedfellows of conservatives and environmentalists, who have united in opposing the subsidies.  That’s amusing, since it was the green lobby that gave us ethanol in the first place.

I can’t help pointing out that subsidies for wind and solar power differ from the above only in so far as they currently do much less damage.  But they are no more economically or environmentally advantageous.

The ethanol regime is what you get when you base your energy on beautiful ideas like “renewable energy” or “green jobs,” and not on any rational estimate of the costs and benefits of energy technologies.

Coming to terms with defeat, or not

Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 12:42 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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margaritavilleSome people say that there’s a woman to blame
but I know: it’s my own damn fault

Those who have just been shellacked in an election would do well to listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville a few times, while searching for their lost shaker of salt.  When Republicans get shellacked they inevitably whine about the biased press.  That’s a little bit harder now that Fox News dominates Cable, but when did reason ever persuade the wounded heart?

In 2006 and 2008 the Republicans got shellacked nationally.  It didn’t happen because the other side cheated or because the press was biased or because the moon was in Virgo.  They got beat because they lost the confidence of the electorate. In a Republic that’s getting beat fair and square.

In South Dakota this year the Democrats got shellacked from top to bottom.  My esteemed Keloland Colleague and NSU Colleague Emeritus, David Newquist, is ready with excuses.  He blames the “the socio-economic factors affecting the Democratic Party in South Dakota.”  He doesn’t spell out those factors, but it doesn’t much matter.  In politics, as in golf, you have to play the ball where it lies.

I think it is a scandal that the Democrats did not run a candidate against John Thune.  David again is ready with excuses.  He seems to think that Senator Thune will do such terrible things to an opponent that no human being could dare to challenge him.  I think that that is utter nonsense.  Republicans Rand Paul in Kentucky and Daniel Webster in Florida bore up under much worse abuse than any candidate has ever dished out in South Dakota.  Instead of turning pale and withdrawing, they fought and won.  I cannot believe that Democrats in South Dakota are such cowards as David imagines them to be.  I think that the uncontested Senate race, the first in the state’s history, was a deliberate strategy.

Nationally, Democrats are looking for their own excuses.  One of the most common ones is that President Obama let his foes define him.  Here is E.J. Dionne:

President Obama allowed Republicans to define the terms of the nation’s political argument for the past two years and permitted them to draw battle lines the way they wanted. Neither he nor his party can let that happen again.

That’s just another version of the standard excuse used by both sides after bad news: the voters didn’t reject us or our policies!  We just didn’t explain ourselves properly.

Nonsense on stilts.  When President Obama put forth health care reform as his highest priority (among his other highest priorities), he very clearly defined the terms of the argument.  Health care reform would “bend the cost curve downward,” i.e, health care reform would save the nation money spent on medicine.  The problem was that no one believed it because it obviously wasn’t true.  Even if you believe the CBO estimates, the best you are going to get out of the health care bill is a wash.  But the CBO estimates always include caveats indicating that the savings in the bill depend on Congress doing things that it has always promised to do but has never actually managed to do.

Here’s why the Democrats took a bath in this election: First, the economy is in dreadful shape.  The President today praised the unexpected growth in private sector jobs.  But that growth is not enough to make up for population growth, let alone enough to depress the unemployment numbers.  Voters are hurting.

But there are two kinds of pain.  One is the kind you have when you break your ankle.  It really smarts, but you aren’t too worried because you figure you are going to get better soon enough.  The other is the kind of pain that makes you think that something much worse is happening, something that you won’t get over.  Pain plus existential fear is a lot worse than just pain.

The trillion dollars a year deficits we are running really worry a lot of us.  They make us wonder whether the economic pain we are suffering isn’t more like the persistent cough or the ache in the gut that won’t go away.  Maybe the whole system is sick.  Does the President have any plan to put us back on the road to fiscal health?  That is one thing that he didn’t define very well.

The deficits are the second thing that weighed down the Democrats.  The third thing was the health care bill.  As the economy stalled and the deficits mounted, the Democrats spent all their energies not on the present crisis but on the thing that they have wanted for decades.  The people didn’t want it.  The voters expressed their dismay not only in opinion polls but in actual elections, but the Democrats in Congress pushed ahead anyway.  That was the third thing.

The economy, the deficits, and the health care bill, in that order, did the Democrats in.  They ought to come to terms with that.  It might not get better.

The Cycle of Regimes

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 9:46 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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cincinnatus1The classical philosophers called it the cycle of regimes.  An obscure polis rises out of its obscurity.  We happy few, we band of brothers, kick the snot of out all the other brother bands in the neighborhood, and become great.  Bred as much by the want of bread as by by eating it, the generation of heroes is leavened with a taste for exertion and is all but immune to the charms of luxury.  They seek power for freedom first, and dominion only because it is the proper ornament for their sense of honor.

Power, however, transforms poverty into plenty.  The sons and grandsons of the great generation shed their forefather’s virtues like winter coats under a noonday sun.  Plenty consumes the power gave birth to it.  The blood of ancient heroes nourishes itself on its own seed corn.  Shadows grow ominously both within the city and around its borders.  Fatted bureaucrats and comfortable guildsmen become alarmed.  They are willing to do anything to restore the health of the regime, as long as it doesn’t involve exercise or a diet.  They may fear the coming darkness, but they hate anyone or anything that speaks with the voice of their ancestors.

Okay, so I got a bit carried away there.  I will let you guess how the tale turns out.  Just right now it looks a lot like our story.  From the 15th century to the present time, Europe grew in power.  It grew at a magnificent rate.  It transformed the world by its growth.  The three great wars of the last century were perfect testimony to the stamina of that power.

In the last half century, things have changed.  Consider the news from France.  Roger Cohen at the New York Times has this:

Labor unions are mobilized, high school kids are out in force, oil refineries are struggling and more than one million people have taken to the streets as France rises to confront the government’s decision to lift the retirement age to 62 from 60. Yes, you read that right: to 62 (and gradually at that.)…

I found Christine Lagarde, the French economy minister, in a combative mood. “Yes, we are going to hold firm,” she told me. Then she gave me the math: “There are 15 million pensioners — every year we add another 700,000 — and already 1.5 million of them, or 10 percent, receive pensions financed by debt. We just can’t go on like that.”

The French now live 15 years longer on average than they did in 1950. They exist in a globalized economy where the Chinese don’t get the notion of retirement. As for financing lifestyles on credit, I suggest the French strikers ask debt-deluged Americans about the wisdom of that — and the Greeks about unbalanced budgets.

If you are financing pensioners with debt, you are eating your seed corn.  Everyone ought to be able to see that this is unsustainable.  The French government sees it, but it has to resist a very powerful wave of offended entitlement.  Greece is much further down the road to disaster, and accordingly the wave of protest has been all the more furious and violent.

So where are we Americans?  Our great pension program, social security, which we have pillaged for decades, is now going into the red.  Just at this moment, when trillions have been spent to rescue a faltering economy, the President and Congress pushed through a health care reform bill that will add trillions more to the bill.  All of this is being financed through debt.  Our budget deficit this year is what?  Well over a trillion dollars.

History isn’t destiny.  There is no reason that we cannot recognize the error of our ways and correct it.  The United States is in many ways in a better position than our European allies.  We have a Tea Party movement.  The push for fiscal responsibility is coming from below here.

The fatted bureaucrats and comfortable guildsmen (see unions) have so far been protected with benefits that most Americans do not enjoy.  They and their allies in the dreamy media hate anyone and everyone who says that we can’t go on like this.  Maybe, just maybe, the virtues of our fathers are not yet dead.

Now Showing in the Titanic Ballroom!

Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 10:24 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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Okay, I realize that the Democrats are in something of a panic.  They have every right to be.  But what could possibly have possessed them to schedule Stephen Colbert as a witness before a House Judiciary Subcommittee?  Colbert “testified” Friday on “the plight of migrant farm workers”.

Politico notes:

David Corn, who writes for the liberal Mother Jones magazine, tweeted “Colbert is making a mockery of this hearing.”

Well, duh.  Mockery is what Stephen Colbert does for a living.  He does it well, and can be very entertaining.  If he does anything else well or has any other expertise, he has managed to conceal it.

You can imagine how this got brewed up.  A room full of Democrats with long faces ponder what to do now that Barack’s mojo doesn’t seem to be animating the youth vote.  Then someone hollers: “I’ve got an idea!”

In the committee room, Colbert did just what he does before a microphone.

Colbert delighted in asking whether he could “submit video of my colonoscopy into the Congressional Record,” talking about getting a Chilean to give him a “Brazilian” wax — a delicate-area hair-removal procedure. And he apologized to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for using the term “cornpacker” because it is “an offensive term for gay Iowans.”

Congress can’t manage to pass a budget, but they’ve got time for this?  So what if the ship is sinking.  At least there is a mildly funny comic still working the stage.

Women in Science

Posted: Monday, June 21, 2010 at 12:40 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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Renaissance Women ScienceWomen are under-represented in the “math-oriented” sciences.  That means such fields as physics, chemistry, engineering, and, I suppose, math.  The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to fix this.  John Tierney explains at the New York Times:

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.”

That ought a do it.  As I am an academic, I can scarcely question the awesome power of workshops.  I’ve been funded to attend a few of them.  I can guarantee you that all of them make the world a better place.  But I have a few questions.

First: why is it bad that there are more physicists with a stunted y chromosome than physicists with a couple of x chromosomes?  Women are over-represented in biology and psychology.  Is that a bad thing?  I can’t see why it would be.  Of course, it doesn’t exactly enhance “gender equity,” unless you mean by that anything that benefits women at the expense of men.

Second: why are women under-represented in the hard sciences?  In a follow-up article, Tierney considers some of the usual suspects.  All the evidence suggests that women do not face significant gender bias when pursuing a career in physics or engineering.  There has been evidence in the past of an aptitude gap between men and women.  One study Tierney considers found

consistent evidence for biological differences in math aptitude, particularly in males’ advantage in spatial ability and in their disproportionate presence at the extreme ends of the distribution curve on math tests.

But female students seem to be catching up and passing their male counterparts in math and science classes.

The real problem seems to lie in two things.  One is that women have babies, and when they do they are more likely to sacrifice career for family than fathers are.  That is a social fact, and it isn’t clear what Congress can do about it.  Academia already does more than other industries to favor working parents.

Another problem is a difference in female and male interests.

The gap in science seems due mainly to another difference between the sexes: men are more interested in working with things, while women are more interested in working with people. There’s ample evidence — most recently in an analysis of surveys of more than 500,000 people — that boys and men, on average, are more interested in inanimate objects and “inorganic” subjects like math and physics and engineering, while girls and women are more drawn to life sciences, social sciences and other “organic” careers that involve people and seem to have direct social usefulness.

Perhaps, as Tierney considers, this might be due to nurture rather than nature.  On the other hand, it might not.  Lawrence Summers lost his job as President of Harvard because he dared to suggest that biology might be part of the reason for female preferences in science careers.

I will dare to say what he said.  It might well be the case that men and women are, on average, biologically oriented to different things.  It might be the case that this orientation has consequences for the distribution of sexes in the math-oriented sciences and in the non-math-oriented sciences.  We should do everything we can to encourage budding scientists of both sexes to bud, but maybe then we have to let the flowers grow as they will.  Whatever is wrong here, it is probably not something that Congress can fix.

Thoughts on Constitutional Rule

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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The Chief knows that most have their own particular church connections, affiliations, and/or beliefs, and that is fine. This posting in no way is presented to demean anyone’s particular religious beliefs unless you are preaching some sort of anti-Constitutional “social justice” doctrines, in which case this applies to you for sure!

After the events in Washington turned this Sabbath Day into a into what IMHO constitutes a virtual Black Sabbath of unrighteous dominion, I offer the following from the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Section 98, for consideration:

5. That law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you and your brethren…in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7. And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
8. I, the Lord god make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
9. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. [emphases added]

Just think about it…IMHO something to remember in November.

Not Bush v. Not Obama

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 12:08 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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Whatever one thinks about Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, it was a political disaster for the 43rd President and for his party.  Bush’s approval ratings never recovered, even when his strategy began to work.  The Democrats won two straight elections and, briefly, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  The recent collapse of Democratic fortunes is happening in spite of the fact that the wounds suffered by Republicans as a result of the Iraq war have not yet healed.

In the short run, that might not matter much.  Election analyst Charlie Cook makes an almost indisputable point: that the Democrat’s health care reform legislation is Obama’s Iraq: it has deeply wounded the Democrats, and the wound may be beyond healing.  Here is a clip of Cook’s interview with the National Journal.  It’s a strong shot of whiskey.

Charlie Cook Interview

Here is the money quote:

I sort of reject the notion that there is a communications problem with President Obama. I think it’s just fundamental, total miscalculations from the very, very beginning. Of proportions comparable to President George W. Bush’s decision to go into Iraq.

How bad is the Democrats situation?  Michael Barone and Democratic Pollster Stan Greenberg apparently agree on that.  From Barone’s blog:

I find it interesting that veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg agrees with my Wednesday Examiner column that if the November elections were held today, Republicans would win control of Congress…

Greenberg compares the Democrats’ plight with their situation in 1994. I believe it’s actually worse. Back in 1994 I wrote the first column that appeared anywhere outside of explicitly Republican media arguing that Republicans had a serious chance of winning a majority in the House. It appeared in the U.S. News issue dated July 18, which was published (in line with magazine custom) on July 11. That was almost five months later in the 1994 cycle than we are in the 2010 cycle today. That means that Democrats have more time to recover than they did that year, but it also means that they are in far more trouble at this stage in the current cycle than they were 16 years ago.

As Barone points out, there is good news and bad news for the Democrats in that.  Like a downhill skier, their party is dreadfully behind on the upper part of the course.  Maybe they can ski really fast on the rest of the course.  I’m inclined to doubt it.

Republicans are in a position to benefit from hindsight, if only they will look past their own hind ends.  The Democrats didn’t surge in 2006 and 2008 because the voters embraced their programs and personalities (well, maybe they did embrace Obama’s personality).  They surged because they were the party of Not Bush.  That of course is how the two party system works.  It’s like a steering wheel, when you don’t like what is to your right, turn the wheel to the left.

The GOP is right now in the same position as the Democrats after 2003.  Republicans are not surging because the people have suddenly recognized the virtues of the party.  They are surging because they are the party of Not Obama, Not Reid and Not Pelosi.  That is especially true regarding the Tea Party Movement, which is all about what it is not in favor of.

The Republicans are doing just fine as the party of no, but if they do capture control of one or both houses, they will have to become the party of this.  They had better be thinking about what this is.  I am not optimistic about that.  I am not confident that Republicans in general have the imagination to find an agenda that will solve the problems we face and satisfy the vast no vote in the electorate.  Worse still, I am not sure that such an agenda is available.

2 More Republicans 4 Congress

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:23 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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In last night’s post on the Republican candidates for Congress, I neglected to mention Pastor Steve Hickey.  This was not intended as a judgment on his campaign, let alone as any kind of slight.  I had seen his campaign announced by Cory Heidelberger, from whom I get all my news.  I just forgot about the Hickey campaign.

Steve Hickey

I do not know Pastor Hickey.  All I have to go on is his website, which is sharp and reasonably informative.  I don’t know if he drinks beer, but if so I’m buyin’.  The theory of sociological representation says that people do or should vote for people just like themselves.  If that were true, I ought to be voting for Steve.  He confesses to a degree in political science and has a beard.

His issues list is bread and butter conservative with a strong emphasis on the “social values” thing.  That and the fact that his career consists almost entirely of his work as a Pastor makes him the candidate of the religious right.  Cory thinks that Hickey and Blake Curd will split the “angry conservative and fundagelical vote.”  “Fundagelical?”  This, Cory thinks, will allow Nelson to win the nomination.

I am skeptical.  Unlike Nelson, Curd, and Noem, Hickey doesn’t seem to have significant political experience.  If it’s really an anti-establishment year, that might play to his advantage; but I am guessing that he will seem too much the religious candidate to a lot of Republicans who want to win in November.  His lack of a political base means he has a lot of ground to cover in voter recognition.

Tarn Vieira

My SDP colleague Miranda Flint informs me of a fifth candidate, Tarn Vieira.  Tarn has the most entertaining website, at least to a political scientist.  How many candidates inform you that they have read most of Will Durant’s History of Civilization.  I like that bit of honesty.  No living human being has read all of Durant’s History.

Tarn describes himself as a transplanted Californian.  That might be a problem, but at least he can say, as I can, that he voluntarily left there for here and doesn’t regret his choice.  His issues page is a lot richer in personality than any of the others, and identifies him as a twenty-four karat right wing populist.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

From his website I like Tarn just fine and I suppose he might bring some refreshing breezes into what might otherwise be a stale campaign.

Just now I don’t think either Steve Hickey or Tarn Vieira will be serious contenders in the campaign.  To be sure, both can appeal to anti-establishment sentiment better than Nelson, Curd, and Noem; but I expect the latter three will compete for most of the political resources in the state, including party organizations, activists, and money.

Three is a magic number in a political environment like South Dakota.  If the top two contenders savage each other, a third might well win by default.  With Noem in the race, I just don’t see any opening for Hickey or Vieira unless one or the other turns out to have some kind of prairie magic.

3 Republicans 4 Congress

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 12:29 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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noemfamilyIt appears that South Dakota Republicans will have three contenders to choose among when they cast their votes in this summer’s Congressional primary.  Right now the field looks to be unusually strong.

I have had the pleasure this year of appearing with two of the Republicans aiming to unseat Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin.  I arrived a bit late for a Tea Party meeting in Watertown, and got to enjoy most of Dr. Blake Curd’s talk.  If memory serves, Dr. Curd was wearing jeans and boots.  He brought a copy of one version of the health care bill, and it stood nearly as tall on the stage as I would.  Dr. Curd struck me as a very serious candidate with an excellent command of the issues and a natural born ability to connect with his audience.  Those two things don’t always go together, and that means we usually have to settle for the latter.  With only this one glimpse to go on, I think that Representative Curd would give us both.

More recently I took part in discussion on Dakota Midday with Secretary of State Chris Nelson.  The topic was the recent Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC.  Secretary Nelson was speaking in his official capacity, so I didn’t get to see his political skills.  I can say that he was very good on the law and the issues surrounded it.  He has that rare ability to unravel very complex legal knots in a way that any listener can understand.  That is something to be wished for in a statesman.  I warmed to him immediately.

More recently still I received a note that Kristi Noem (pronounced like gnome), Representative for District 6 of the South Dakota house, is throwing her hat in the ring.  Perhaps I will get to hear Representative Noem at some venue, but right now I don’t know where she stands on national issues.  I have heard from people I trust that she is sharp and articulate, and knows the public business.

She does have several advantages that are very important for aspiring candidates: she is photogenic, well-rooted in the community, and has three equally attractive children.  We may think that such things do not matter, but perhaps they do.  As a rancher’s wife, she will appeal to a lot of South Dakota voters.

This looks to me like an unusually strong field.  The only SD poll I know about had Congresswoman Herseth-Sandlin ahead, but below 50%.  That is generally a warning sign for an incumbent, especially if she has served more than one term.  I have also heard from my various contacts that Ms. Herseth-Sandlin’s fundraising has been anemic.  There is certainly the sense in the air that she is vulnerable.

A strong field of contenders for the nomination means that Ms. Herseth-Sandlin may well be replaced by a Republican.  That would be more likely if, as seems the case, there is a strong wave building for the GOP.  One of the above may be our next representative in Congress.

Whether that is the case or not, there is also the future to look to.  Any one of the above looks like a serious contender for Tim Johnson’s senate seat in 2014, especially if Senator Johnson decides to retire.  Curd, Nelson, and Noem must compete this year, but it is very important that they avoid savaging one another.  If they can avoid this, the Republican Party may soon control all of South Dakota’s national delegation.