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

Friday, May 23, 2014

“Everything is bad luck until you win, and then it’s not”

California Chrome has won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and is heading for the Belmont Stakes to try to be the first Triple Crown winner in years and years.

Horse racing has a culture of superstition abounding in it.  New York Times racing writer Melissa Hoppert has a great story about its prevalence on the race tracks.

Just as silly as some of these superstitions about horse racing may seem,  what passes for wisdom or whatever in political campaigns is. even sillier.  Every blogger and commentor seems to think they know what it takes to win an election.  They argue endlessly citing misinformation, demonstrating ignorance, and ignoring the fact that little that they tout as strategy has an effect on the voters.  The voters vote their own ignorance, their prejudices, and knowledge of the issues and candidates' attributes  guide only a small minority of them.

Horse racing is superior.  Horsemen weigh the records and attributes of the horses in assessing potential winners.  The vast majority of voters assess nothing but their own preferences and attitudes toward their fellow humans.  

California Chrome has four white-stocking (chrome) feet.  That is considered bad luck in racing.  His origins are humble.  Most good brood mares cost over $100,000 and the stud fees are astronomical.  Chrome's mama cost his owners $8,000 and the stud fee was $2,000.  He defies the superstitions and the conventional notions of good breeding.

South Dakota has some political candidates who are  like Chrome.  They are sound with strong records of good character and a command of issues, but the quality of their candidacy does not matter on the South Dakota political track.  Their qualities and efforts will not determine their success.  The fans who vote their prejudices, their ignorance, and their obsessive maligning of those who do not share their prejudices and ignorance decide the winners.  Many politicians pander to the ignorance, prejudice, and penchants tor seething hatreds.

Many potential winners decline to run for public service in South Dakota because its politics are so dementedly oppressive, as reflected in the state legal code.  I for one could not recommend anyone running on this track and admire those with the ambition and optimism to try.  I am  frankly more interested and hopeful for the Belmont Stakes than the future of South Dakota.  The state has accrued a record as the lowest state for integrity, scandals of greed and corruption in state government that the ruling powers refuse to address, and an economy built on exploiting workers.  If South Dakota were a racetrack, it would be shut down and not allowed to operate.

California Chrome is so superior to those who have made South Dakota what it has become.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States