Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Will The-Boy-Next-Door Become Our Congressman-Next-Year? Maybe, But Dusty Johnson Can Only Go So Far On Optimism And Huggability

     Dusty Johnson has all it takes in the photogenics department.  The native South Dakotan, who's vying for the Republican nomination for our state's lone seat in the U.S. House of
Dusty Johnson
You Just Want To Hug Him!
Representatives, is a model boy-next-door, as huggable as a Paddington Bear and just as endearing.  Shrewdly building on that "aw shucks" persona, Johnson's  standout claim to qualifying for a place on the November ballot is "I'm an optimist.  That's why I'm running for Congress."
     Disarmingly genuine, Johnson's campaign will go far on telegenics.  As to substance, though, he comes up way short.  In fact, it's just about impossible to pin this guy down on where he stands on some of the big issues he'll be contending with should he make it all the way to Congress.  There's probably a lot of calculation in that politically safe approach, but I doubt it will carry him over the top.  Johnson's website boasts of his accomplishments as an elected Public Utilities Commissioner, though all of those decisions were made by the Commission, not Johnson himself.  Then there's that four year stint as Governor Daugaard's Chief of Staff.  Johnson makes the audacious claim that while serving Daugaard he was "overseeing much of state government."  A Chief of Staff doesn't "oversee" government and I'd be surprised if Dennis Daugaard would cede the role of government oversight to what is effectively an office manager with some advisory roles.  More to the point, considering South Dakota's feeble economic performance during Daugaard's tenure, I wonder if Johnson's close association with the Governor's office is the asset that he believes it to be.
     As to Johnson's stands on issues that matter right now, I don't see much.  His interview in the Rapid City Journal last Summer was dismissive toward the agricultural sector in this state, with Johnson saying that "ranchers and row-crop folks don't need a lot" and that "government's not going to make them whole."  He completely overlooked the importance of international trade to our state's largest industry and how he would deal with the Trump administration's hostility toward NAFTA and other trade agreements that are uniformly supported by all the major ag groups.  On health care, Johnson makes the un-stunning (for a Republican) announcement that he'd "like to have a plan that does even more to empower states." Actually, state-empowerment is already a feature of one of  one of our country's largest (to the tune of a half-trillion bucks) healthcare programs, Medicaid.  Does Johnson know that when Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana he devised an Indiana-specific plan to expand Medicaid into his state?  And that Governor Daugaard did the same here but was stymied by a recalcitrant legislature?  States already have the power that Johnson seeks, and it's funded by federal money.  He should know that.
      Meantime we have major fights on the 2018 horizon whose outcomes will mean much to South Dakotans.  At some point Johnson's positions on things like net neutrality, infrastructure spending, the "wall" and other immigration issues will be flushed out and voters will get a sense of who he is.  We'll then find out if the boy next door is capable of being our Congressman next year.


  1. You hit the nail on the head John. Haven't heard much from Dusty,on specific issues. How much does he support Trump? Would he be able to stand up against Trump? Noem doesn't have that capability. What are his specific views on healthcare?

  2. There is another issue, as you pointed out. Ag might be the biggest issue for South Dakota at the Federal level. Will he do as our current US Representative has done, turn in his possible seat on the Ag committee to be on the Ways and Means committee? Apparently if he thinks that ranchers and row croppers can stand on their own, he just might.

    I like Dusty and have had several conversations with him, but when he ran for PUC last time and I voted for him, and then right after election, he resigned for the Chief of Staff job, so that the governor could appoint Chris Nelson to the PUC, I said then and reiterate now that I will never vote for him again.

    1. On the last part Lanny my wife felt the same way you sis. She voted for him for PUC and when he quit right away she said she'd never vote for him again

  3. The boy next door lived just about next door when I lived in Pierre. I think he is smart to campaign the way he is right now. There will be time to flesh out his positions, and it's probably wise to take a careful approach, talk to people and get their ideas first. The Hater Candidates will flog themselves to see who can best imitate the Manhattan Fulminator, while Dusty goes about being a regular South Dakotan. With Trump wearing thin (if not impeached) by the election, Dusty is placing himself in the best possible position to vie against a formidable Democratic candidate. Yeah, he does need to flesh out his issues, but not yet.

  4. Moderated blogs are not worth my time unless they drive my own agenda but when GOPers beat each other up it's always fun to throw a little gasoline on the dumpster fire. Johnson is a Howdy Doody candidate and as pink as cotton candy. After he addresses East River pollution including the eutrophic lake in his own back yard maybe he can arise to being something more than pond scum.