News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A perspective from Brown County, S..D.

I was supposed to be blogging throughout the night, but from the moment I turned my laptop on here at the Ramkota Courtyard iln Aberdeen, people attending the Brown County Democrats election watch appropriated it to look at the election returns coming in.

First, I never thought I would see an African American elected to president in my lifetime. It is not that long ago that I had to be escorted by a guard mount on an Army base in Germany because I was labeled an n-lover and some men vowed to get me for betraying my race. The greatness of America is not in its bullying and intransigence in regard to dealing with internal and external opponents of its policies, but in the strides it makes in extending freedom, equality, and equal protection of the laws. I am happy that

I became a supporter of Obama long before he ever announced his candidacy for president. I was so because he was fully endorsed by one of the true bipartisan congressmen, the late Sen. Paul Simon from Illinois. Sen. Simon saw in Obama one of the most powerful intellects and one of the most skillful communicators to be in politics. At that time, Sen. Obama was still a legislator in the Illinois State Assembly. Genuine talent has to be recognized and supported, and that was Paul Simon's goal in Barack Obama's case.

Sen. Johnson's victory was satisfying and not totally surprising. He came close to losing an election six years ago against John Thune. Even before that election, it was clear that his engagement with the negative campaign of Thune was hurting him.

This time, he had the after-effects of a brain hemorrhage to deal with. As opponents and some members of less-than-cogent press begain to insist that he could not do the job of senator, longtime campaign strategists realized that his opponents were not defining Sen. Johnson, but were defining themselves. One of the factors that helped in the registration of new voters was the growing awareness that mean, small-minded, and ignorant people dominated South Dakota politics. All we had to do to clinch our case was refer them to comments on blogs.and the level of facts and reasoning in some of the media comments. One strategist out here in the Courtyard opened that the Rapid City Journal may have turned a fairly close election into a decisive victory. In our part of the state, the detractors made it easy to campaign for the Senator.

Sen. Johnson's heroic recovery and his constant and effective work in the Senate emphasized the scurrility and ill-motives of those who denied his accomplishment. To people who struggle witlh health issues and other debilities, Sen. Johnson is a leader of tremendous magnitude. He is a constant demonstration that people will some affllictions can still perform with great competence and effect.

As for Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, her campaign paralleled Obama's. There is simply no substitute for brains and magnanimity of spirit. Even people who do not agree with some of Rep. Herseth Sandlin's positions trust that they will be represened with great intelligence driven by a total devotion to good will and good purpose. People trust and rely on her.

As for the local races, District 2 is good hands with Sen. Jim Hundstadx, Rep. Paul Dennert, the dean of appropriations, and newly elected Elaine Elliot.

District 3 reflects the insane gerrymander contrived to preserve a Republican majority. Sen. Alan Hoerth's loss to Al Novstrup is a misfortune. While Novstrup commands a majority, the intensity of those who voted against him is not measured in the numbers. His "support" of education is contingent upon that education being confined to his regressive agenda. His detractors are not inspired by his policies but by his personal words and actions. Dennis Feickert, a longtime county commissioner, will represent the County and the Party with a deliberative integrity. The other Novstrup has been a bit of a non-entity, and the deep talents of Mark Remily have been overlooked. We hope he tries again in two years, as we do for Alan Hoerth.

Burt Ellliot, husband of Elaine, is turning his house seat over to her and is taking up a chair at the County Commission. Republican Duane Sutton will serve the Commission well, and has the respect of members of both parties.

Things happened in this election that have changed the way of doing politics in the U.S. The change had its glimmers up here in the provinces, but the standard of good will and inclusiveness is feebly grasped.

We will have much to say about the campaign as we match the statistics to the factions and demography.

On a national level, the politics of true representation and decency have had a triumph. We still have a way to go in the outer precincts.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States