Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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The idea that one commits treason by changing political parties is incredibly, well, ah, silly. If one's political party no longer represents one's values and if it doesn't listen or accommodate one's values, then the only intelligent move is to find a party that does. That is why we have political parties. The ability to change parties is part of citizenship, not a betrayal of the country. Jesus. The idea is that political parties are created to serve us, not that we are bonded to the service of political parties at the peril of our lives. Dayamn.
The idea of changing parties links with the idea that parties should make winning elections their first priority. If a party abandons the principles for which people support it solely to win power, it is not serving the people who support it. It is more important to hold to the principles than it is to win elections. When party leaders switch their allegiance of principles, there are supporters who no longer have a voice in the process.
This is a potential problem for Stephanie Herseth. She is a Blue Dog Democrat, which is a legitimate stance within the Democratic Party. There is nothing sneaky or suspicious about being a Blue Dog. Ms. Herseth is a Blue Dog because she is smart. She knows that a full-out liberal stance will not win elections in South Dakota. She has shaped a platform that is designed to represent a majority of South Dakotans.
I set some erstwhile Democrats to fuming when I commented on Clean Cut Kid's blog that although I do not support some of Ms. Herseth's stances, I support her because she has brains. She has lots of brains. She may take positions that I cannot agree with, but I am confident she will do nothing stupid. Like the junior senator from this state did when he was in the House.
On most issues like the support of rural America, opposition to corporate rule and control of the economy, veterans benefits, and civil rights, Herseth staunchly takes the Democrat side. The one place that the right is uncomfortable with Herseth is on the right for women to exercise personal and private choice on reproductive matters. Here is where brains enter in. The number of women who want to retain the right to choose is a majority. On this issue, Herseth knows her electorate.
So, with her Blue Dog stance, Herseth has a very solid electorate behind her. Republicans are fretting about whether they can find a credible candidate to run against her. Democrats should not be smug that they have a smart and savvy candidate who knows how to appeal to the state's voters. Ultimately, that does not matter.
As a Congressman, John Thune was inconsequential. But he had something the Republicans need. A presentable face and a malleable character. John Thune did not win over Tom Daschle on substance. His record in the House was one of a bumbling party hack who had few clues as to what issues--highways, water, agriculture--needed attending in the state. But after three terms in the House and a close run against Tim Johnson, his puppeteers groomed him into an image that pleased a majority in the state that fears "eastern liberalism" and regards it as a form of terrorism.
The Republican machine is very good at posing rock-star like images while engaging in nefarious character assassination against the opponents. Few of the nice things the Republican campaign suggested about John Thune were true; few of the nasty things it said about Tom Daschle were true. As the slogan on another blog states, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, and that is enough."
This is what Stephanie Herseth has to watch out for. Ultimately, substance on issues means little when the Orwellian propaganda machine revs up at full speed. The Republicans don't need a viable candidate. They need a malleable puppet with few original ideas and positions.
That's why I will vote for the brains rather than the strings. Even if I disagree on occasion with the brains. Looking for new party is always an option, but right now there are no better alternatives than brains.