Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dem Issues Can Win . . . But Dems Can't. What's Up With That?

     Our minimum wage issue, IM 18, won handily by a 55-45 margin this week. In its way, that seems like a victory for Democrats, or at least the Democratic economic world view.  On IM 17, the "patient choice" initiative that passed by about 2-to-1, my friend Cory Heidelberger over at his excellent and informative blog The Madville Times, thinks that the victory also comports with the Democratic way of looking at things, calling it an "example of sensible government regulation giving South Dakotans more healthcare choices, not less."  Though I disagree, the fact that Democrats embrace these measures as wins consistent with their view of government creating better things for the general population suggests that they're missing something. Voters are not entirely disconnected from using the electoral process as a means of turning bread-and-butter issues like wages and healthcare in their favor. So if Dem issues can win, why can't Dem candidates?
      This isn't a question that's unique to South Dakota.  A Chicago friend writes that "Illinois had a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10, and it won easily. There was a background checks measure that won easily as well as a measure to require companies to provide mandatory birth control as part of their health plans. We had a governor [losing incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn] in a blue state with plenty of financial backing who ran on all of those things and ran ads quoting his opponent as wanting to get rid of minimum wage. It didn't help him at all."  Meantime, minimum wage hikes won in Nebraska, Alaska, and Arkansas--all of them, like South Dakota, red states that sent Republicans to Congress this week.
     As far as South Dakota is concerned, I think that IM 18's passage will prove to have much more of an impact on the day-to-day economic lives of residents than who we elected to state and federal offices.  Elected officials come and go, but the recently enacted minimum wage hike will last in perpetuity, particularly if its built in Cost Of Living Adjustment survives any future legislative or electoral challenges.  On a macro level, the state itself will see some economic gains from the newly unleashed $15 million a month of spending cash that will materialize as soon as the onset of higher wages start flowing through the economy.  That measures like this, championed wholeheartedly by Democrats, can win should be bracing for Dems.  Why their candidates can't follow suit should be dismaying.
     I think a lot of it has to do with the ideologically-saturated themes that have come from the party, at least here in South Dakota.  I've said enough about my disdain for Rick Weiland's "Take It Back" campaign, which seemed more about class conflict than anything else.  Meantime Corinna Robinson's opening pitch begins with the phrase "as a nation."  Not a good start for voters focused on bread-and-butter matters that affect them directly.  Susan Wismer's self-aggrandizing announcement for Governor tells us that because she grew up on a farm she knows about hard work and responsibility. Yay, and bully bully. Unfortunately, for each of them the words "jobs, education, healthcare" should have been in their leads, not lost in the verbal congestion of their policy positions.
     Robert Reich, formerly a Clinton administration cabinet member and currently an Economics Prof at Berkeley took note of this situation this morning and commented:  
"Minimum wage hikes were approved Tuesday by margins of 60 to 70 percent in South Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska, and Arkansas – the same “red” states that sent Republicans to the House and Senate. What this tells me is voters are more concerned about jobs and wages than ideology. They don’t vote against their interests, but they don’t see Democratic politicians responding to their interests. They want action on lousy pay, unpredictable hours, lack of childcare and paid sick leave, arbitrary firings, and runaway CEO pay. Speak to these, and even in “red” state voters will support you."
    I think Reich has it right.  Dems need to get off their high horses and start focusing on the day-to-day stuff that matters to people.  


  1. Operative words: if the COLA survives any legislative or electoral changes. We've lost already, Mr. Tsitrian. The republicans won't let it be. Just like Roe v. Wade. Just like ACA. The list is endless but the voters can't see beyond Fox News and Limbaugh and Beck and their ilk.

  2. Unfortunately, no one ever lost money betting that the SD legislature couldn't find a way to cut off its nose to spite its face. Fortunately, thanks to the likes of Robert W.Haire, this state has Referendum as well as Initiative.

  3. I agree; the GOP will find a way to repeal the minimum wage, and will work overtime to gut any of the "liberal" initiatives that pass. Except legalization of pot - that will stay in, because it is, apparently, extremely profitable.

  4. Respectfully John ~ are you spending quality time researching Corinna's stance or just plucking away at single comments?

    As an extract to the RC Journal Candidate questionnaire, Corinna stated her priorities and I have heard her passionately express them at the debates (whereas Noem tap-dances around or ignores them):

    - Reducing our national deficit while promoting a living wage of $8.50 in South Dakota. Recall she hand-carried the minimum wage increase petition. What other candidate of any party took time out for that?

    - Promoting education to include Headstart; lowering college tuition costs; and the refinancing of student loans.

    - Reforming the Affordable Health Care Act; expanding Medicaid; and non-closure of VA facilities while hiring the requisite doctors and nurses.

    Recall Corinna is a combat veteran proudly living on her pension and admirably helped her three sons graduate college. It was a pleasure to meet them during her campaign.There is no doubt she will defend what matters to South Dakotans most!

    P.S. Why did over 45% of Kristi's last quarter contributions come from PACs or out-of-state donors if she is truly taking care of us?