As the steward of a list of Democrats who contributed to the county Democratic party with funds and organizational support, I have been alarmed at the rapid shrinking of that list. I have often mentioned it and have offered evidence from it to indicate that a factor in the decline of registered Democrats in South is that intelligent, talented, and educated people leave the state, and those who stay withdraw from social and political interaction. Brown County has been a Democratic stronghold, contributing leaders like Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to national politics, but has shown a decidedly Republican drift in recent years.
Attrition accounts for a great deal of the names that vanished from that list. Many long-time Democrats have died; many have moved to gentler climes to live their senior years, and many have left to pursue more rewarding jobs, and many have left for more vital and sustaining cultural climates. Loyal South Dakota Democrats resist facing the fact that many people, even those raised and schooled here and with family connections here, do not like South Dakota. And their dislike extends to the people. Many people who have been raised in South Dakota want out.
John Tsitrian who writes The Constant Commoner blog examines a study from Drexel University which analyzes the outmigration from South Dakota. The statistics show:
- In 2012, 47 percent (488,000 persons) born in South Dakota live in other states.
- Of 1.03 milllion people born in the state, 570,000 remain, making it among the lowest ranking states in terms of birth residents who have remained in the state.
- Although, 262,000 people have migrated into the state, they are heavily weighted toward people with high school diplomas, while those leaving are heavily weighted toward those with college and post-graduate degrees.
After the drubbing Democrats took in the national and state elections, efforts are being made in South Dakota to rebuild the party. The problem these efforts face is that the people who incline toward liberal and progressive politics have left or want to leave the state. Many people who habitually vote Republican are in the economic class that is harmed and discriminated against by Republican policies. They are not intellectually inclined to examine how GOP policies and political schemes affect their lives, but rather think their Republican votes makes them part of the managing class.
The harsh fact is that educated people leave the state, while the semi-educated vote for the people and policies that regard them as serfs whose virtue rlies in their docile acceptance of low wages and suppressive work rules.
Rebuilding the Democratic Party in South Dakota will have to involve educating and then giving voice to a constituency that is held in economic bondage, but does not understand how their “right to work” limits their opportunities and their standard of living. The question is, if you can educate them about their plight, will they leave the state, too?