Giago Gone

The “Ralph Nader of South Dakota” (cough, cough) has dropped his independent bid for Tom Daschle’s Senate seat. There must be real question whether this bid was ever truly serious to begin with.

The articles announcing Tim Giago’s withdrawal all speak of a meeting between Daschle and Giago in which Giago said he “accomplished what I set out to do, get the important Indian issues on the table.” I’m not quite sure how a two-hour meeting, gets the issues on the table. Daschle did agree to an August meeting with tribal leaders on Indian issues. I don’t find great accomplishment there. There have been plenty of similar meetings and conferences on these issues in my lifetime — all of which have produced little or no result. A group meeting with Daschle is not alone sufficient to bring serious Native American issues to the forefront of this campaign.

Reports that Giago is planning on starting a new newspaper, “scheduled to debut July 1,” is a much more likely explanation of why Giago dropped his initial plans to run in against Daschle in the June primary. As I noted last month, it made no sense to withdraw if you have enough signatures to get on the primary ballot but need to get new signatures in order to get on the general election ballot.

Sure, Giago would have gotten votes on the reservation and if the race is as tight as Johnson-Thune two years ago, those votes could have been important. But I think the pundits are giving Giago far too much credit in terms of impact both from an electoral standpoint and in terms of making Native American issues a focus of the campaign. There’s a long time between now and November.

Yet the GOP is showing it still doesn’t understand Indian Country. Thune’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, claims Thune is getting a good response on the reservation. He seems to forget Thune only got 13 percent of the vote on the largest reservations in his Senate run two years ago. Wadhams also points to “young, dynamic activist” Bruce Whalen. He doesn’t mention Whalen is Shannon County GOP chair and a 41-year-old college student. Wadhams also relies on an endorsement by Russell Means. That’s the problem with outsiders running South Dakota political campaigns. If Wadhams thinks the support of a former American Indian movement leader, now a “Lakota Libertarian Republican,” is going to help win Thune reservation residents who vote, he needs a reality check. Means couldn’t even win a race for Oglala Sioux tribal chairman. Means does have an advantage over Giago, though. He is a much more proficient self-promoter.

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