Saturday, June 28, 2014

Memo to Rick Weiland: Put Your Populist Passion Into Policy

     I've been a long-time admirer of Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Rick Weiland's passionate campaign style, though I find it coming up short when it comes to converting that passion into policy.  I said as much in a post here a while back, prompting a spirited reply here.  I found Rick's thoughts to be an excellent manifesto of Weiland's broadly populist approach to the campaign, railing as it did on the problems of concentrated wealth in this country.  Given that South Dakota has a long history of sending Democrats to Congress, Weiland's appeal to his home state's natural and historic skepticism of the concentrations of political and financial power in Washington, D.C., and several of the big "money center" cities in the United States has a lot of potential to it among voters.
     As readers here know, I'm not much of a fan of Republican candidate and former Governor Mike Rounds, who is the GOP's default candidate based on his resume and early financial strength.  Those assets weren't enough to get him much more than a slim majority of Republican votes (about 55%) in the recently held primaries and suggests to me that Republicans are anything but uniformly enthused about Rounds.  Almost half of South Dakota's Pubs haven't made up their minds . . . which is okay, because as a practical political matter, I  like the idea of sending both a Pub and a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. That way South Dakotans get to caucus with each party, which is no small consideration when it comes to making helpful political friends in D.C.  That's why I'm pulling for Rick Weiland to win this seat.
     Trouble is, I'm having my doubts about the Weiland campaign's chances of success.  Why?  So far all I've heard from it are generalities about "taking it back" and a few stock endorsements of the Affordable Care Act that pretty much come out of the national Democratic party playbook.  At the Party's state convention a few days ago he did go a bit farther afield by railing against the EB-5 visa program, which has had its share of troubles in South Dakota.  However, it doesn't seem to be gaining any traction as a campaign issue of consequence, probably making it a waste of good campaign time.  There is more fertile political ground for an agrarian populist to sow.
     For example, given Weiland's tenacious abhorrence of concentrations of money and power, I haven't heard him say much about the concentration that has been going on in the meatpacking industry during the course of the last couple of decades.  This is a matter that has long been near and dear to the hearts of South Dakota's largest industry--livestock production--for many years now.  Both producers and consumers in this country are basically in the clutches of a handful of meatpackers who continue to consolidate.  Weiland should look at his counterpart in Nebraska, Democrat Dave Domina (also running for the U.S. Senate), for some guidance on this issue.  Domina makes it pretty clear that he's opposed to mergers that squeeze suppliers and small companies trying to compete.  Then there's the matter of cutting big banks down to size:  Domina wants a law passed that limits banks to holding no more than 5 percent of U.S. deposits, down from the current limit of 10%.  Going back to "farm belt" concerns, Domina is in favor of putting restrictions on big seedmakers like Monsanto.  I can think of others, all of them directly concerning the welfare and opportunities of South Dakotans.
     Weiland really needs to get down to specifics like these if he's going to get the attention of an electorate that probably tunes out populist generalizations as just so much  political blather.  If Rick can do so, he'll at least bring the campaign to a level that working South Dakotans can understand because it will relate to their day-to-day concerns.  As some bright guy once said, "all politics is local," which is a good dictum for local boy Rick Weiland to start building on.


  1. John, Can Mike Rounds diss debates with the other candidates, the way he did in the Republican primaries, and get away with it? Won't the Independent voters take more exception to that than what the Republican primary voters did?

    Does Pressler stand a chance or being he is as old as I am, will that disqualify him in the eyes and or minds of too many voters? Are there debates scheduled for all three of the major offices, at the State Fair?

    1. Don't know about the debate schedules at the Fair, Lanny, but I know that PBS has 3 debates scheduled in October. A week or so ago the RCJ reported that Rounds had not yet committed to any of them. It's bound to have a negative effect if MR ducks Weiland throughout the cycle, especially among Independents and the many Republicans who don't care much for him in the first place. Rounds should take note of the price paid by Eric Cantor for his aloofness, especially if Weiland can energize some ground troops. Pressler's age isn't so much an issue as his lack of a compelling platform of ideas and policies that can get people excited.