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Electability and the “greater good” vs. principle

I received a variety of comments after saying I could no longer support Stephanie Herseth. They all boil down to a couple key points. Essentially, the argument is she is better than the alternative and is at least is a Democratic voice in the House instead of a Bush “rubber stamp.” Another angle is that what she is saying is probably the view of a majority of South Dakotans so she needs to take those positions to get elected.

As to the first argument, if you throw a small tarp over their respective positions, little of either Herseth or Diedrich would be seen. So far, both mostly speak generically about wanting better health care, education funding, jobs, etc., for South Dakotans, veterans and Native Americans. There are two areas where they or their handlers have highlighted differences. Diedrich is more strongly anti-abortion/pro-life and he supports full retention of Bush’s tax cuts whereas Stephanie supports only limited retention. But on other key issues — Iraq, the Patriot Act and gun control for example — it seems there’s a “rubber stamp” regardless of who is elected.

Sen. Kerry voted for the war but I doubt that “knowing what we know now” — which was the question put to Herseth — he would say yes we should have invaded. Kerry voted for the Patriot Act (who didn’t in the “only a traitor would vote against this” atmosphere at the time) but says it needs to be replaced or modified with laws more protective of civil liberties. Kerry supports gun control measures that Stephanie opposes. Given the dichotomy between Herseth and Kerry on these positions, how does she add to the Democratic voice in Washington?

The “she has to say this to get elected” argument — often accompanied by “wait and see how she votes” — truly irritates the naive, altruistic side of me. Is electability worth foregoing important principles? More disconcerting, this form of ends justify the means rationalization means a candidate is free to mislead the voters on his or her true beliefs as long as they express them once in office. Is it realistic to think that with the general election in November and another one two years down the road Stephanie is going to vote any different than her public pronouncements on these issues? She isn’t even taking stands consistent with Demoractic principles that might actually lead to rational debate on these issues.

Maybe I am “too liberal” (if there is such a thing and, if there is, it is something I don’t view as bad). I simply know that whoever is elected next month, I will remain unheard and unrepresented by South Dakota’s member of the House of Representatives. And, contrary to what someone said, I’m not taking my ball and going home. I’m simply saying that my principles do not allow me to support either candidate because both are wrong on the issues (plural) that matter to me.

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