Today I had not one, but TWO political pollsters call me with extensive surveys. One, actually for my son (but since he was gone, they let me answer) was from Oregon, as I figured when he called the South Dakota capital “Pi-erre” instead of the correct “Pier.” The pollster had the usual either-or and limited-choice questions (Anarchist, Self-Governor and even Libertarian were NOT on the list of political affiliations, for instance). But it appeared to cover a wide range of questions regarding the congressional delegation (since I know 2 of the 3 personally, THAT was easy to answer, and no, I didn’t use cuss words), the legislature (did I know the three for my district, and did I ever talk to them), and a few issues such as Obummercare – but only two choices. And they did ask two open-ended questions which caused me to think: “What should be the South Dakota legislature’s biggest concern in the next session (which starts in January)?” (my answer was, prepare for the collapse of the federal government and the Union), and “If you could get the legislature to do just one thing right now, what would it be?” (My answer was, to stop accepting federal laws and regulations automatically and tell DC to stick their ideas in painful places.)
The second survey was from a nice little lady in Sioux Falls – imagine that! Hers was more of a push poll, apparently trying to get a feel for some changes in the state constitution to (a) have a “non-partisan” commission redraw legislative districts every ten years, (2) make all legislative districts single-seat, (3) make the legislature “non-partisan” like Nebraska’s, (4) make all legislative districts follow county and municipal boundaries, and (5) reduce the Senate from 35 to 31 members. (The last by the way is what triggered this article.)
For those who don’t know South Dakota, there are 35 senate seats and 70 house of representative seats in the legislature. Every district has one senator and two representatives, who run at large, so that each political party can have two candidates for the house. (There are four half-districts which have only one representative, ordered by some federal court to make it easier for Lakota representatives to get elected, since otherwise their vote would be diluted by large nearby Anglo populations.) The districts do not quite split houses in half, but they do tend to be odd and divide towns and counties and such, in order to get districts as equal in size as possible. And while there are some hints of gerrymandering it usually isn’t too bad. (Usually. For instance, my wife and I are in a community which was slipped from the district it had been in for decades. We were moved to another district with a large suburban population, just after her running for the legislature kept a really dangerous GOP candidate from winning one of the two seats. It may have been a matter of fate, but it was very convenient for the old district’s solid GOP constituency, and separated us from the strong Libertarian community in the old District.)
I could go through each of these proposals and explain and argue them, but that is not the point of this article. Rather, the point is this: Why bother? (Especially the business about 31 instead of 35 Senators?) Why reorganize and go all non-partisan? Just because we don’t have letters behind their names, we can pretty much figure out who is on what side of which issue. And frankly, after several decades of South Dakota politics, you learned in the first year or so to ignore the party labels. Some of the biggest and loudest liberals (even Tranzis) in the state wear (R) after their name; some of the most stalwart foes of increased taxes and even limits on government have (D) after their names. South Dakota has a lot of one-party districts; districts in which either the GOP or the Democracy don’t even bother to run candidates, and the election is decided in the primaries in June. Getting rid of the partisan labels will just keep minor parties from having anyone in the general election and will REDUCE choice – if it even matters.
As I said, I could argue all these, but the plain and simple truth is that NONE of these changes would do ANYTHING to restore Liberty in South Dakota. It isn’t so much who or what party is in power, it is the fact that they have POWER. Too much power. (What is too much? If the town council has any more power than deciding who gets to make the speech before the fireworks on Independence Day, they’ve got too much. If the legislature gets to do anything more important than decide what the State Fossil should be, too much!) Congress and the Fifty State legislatures have led the whole nation down the primrose path to the edge of the cliff, we are running all out over that edge, and YOU want to “reform” state government by getting rid of four senate seats?
Seems to me, that is how we got into this mess in the first place: majoring in minors. And thinking, “just this one little change will magically fix everything.”