"That the South Dakota Democratic Party is a shambles was starkly affirmed a couple of weeks ago at the polls. That Democrats in the Rapid City region are in need of a rhetorical spanking was affirmed to me a few weeks prior to that when the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce organized a forum to discuss election issues. My conclusion now that the post-election dust is settling? Dems have good reason to be demoralized--but they have no excuse for indifference.
Here’s what happened at that forum. The committed folks (kudos to you C of C types, by the way) at the Chamber set up a public gathering focused on two ballot measures, IM 17 (the “Patient Choice” initiative) and IM 18 (the proposed minimum wage increase). Spokespeople for and against were invited to come out and speak their pieces. Regarding the first issue, two local physicians, outstanding in their fields and passionate in their respective regard and disregard for IM 17 made excellent cases for their positions. The complicated initiative was clearly explained and the competing arguments were distilled to the point where complexity and confusion devolved into clarity. Attendees got a decent enough grasp of the measure’s elements to make an informed decision about their votes. A big bravo to all involved.
Then came time to hash out the many issues and scenarios that would result from passage of IM 18, the minimum wage hike. Opposition to the measure was spearheaded by the Pierre-based South Dakota Retailers Association, which sent an articulate representative all the way to Rapid City to make a very good case against the measure. Being a supporter of IM 18 myself, I was looking forward to hearing a Democrat lay out the reasons this thing needed passage. As Dems were instrumental in the measure’s placement on the ballot, the party was unified in its support for it. But to the local Dems' embarrassment, the moderator explained that the Chamber had contacted the local Democratic organization and invited a speaker to appear, but not a single soul showed up.
Talk about rude, not to mention dumb. This was a well-publicized forum that got plenty of advance media coverage. Voters seeking informed arguments on an important ballot issue took time off to attend. Two busy physicians made it their business to come and speak. One gentleman from SDRA made a 300-mile round trip to fulfill his group’s rightful regard for its public obligation to speak out. But did even one local Democrat think it was worth the bother to take a couple of hours and make a case for this ultra-important measure? Nope. Not one.
West-river Dems, you blew it, big time. I’m actually mad about it on two fronts. First, you wasted a great opportunity. Second, you wasted my time. If this is a microcosmic reflection of what’s happening in Democratic organizations throughout South Dakota, your party just got the shellacking it deserved. It’s time to grab that act of yours and clean it up."