Silent majority or overstated minority?

The ads are starting to blast every airwave.

While many rip on ‘cancel culture,’ one definite advantage of streaming services on radio and television is the ability to pay for “no advertisement” broadcasts. Even then, they still find you.

Social media, phone calls - even on your cell phone, and letters galore explaining why you should vote for this candidate and not another candidate. Face it, we’re inside 100 days until an election. It won’t go away for three-plus months!

One of those recent social media discussions led into the phrase “the silent majority” from a friend. His intention with that phrase was to describe a group of right-leaning voters that he believed made up a significant base of South Dakota’s registered voters and would come through in November.

There is no doubt that South Dakota is a red state. The last time the state voted Democrat in a Presidential election, it was for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and the last time a Democratic governor was elected was Richard Kneip a decade later.

However, I gently pointed out to my friend that the numbers actually did not favor his opinion that Republicans were even the majority in the state anymore. Registration trends toward Democrat and especially toward Independent registrations have left Republicans with the most registered voters, sure, but no longer is the party the majority in the state.

Of course, I love numbers, so I had researched the actual numbers on this.

Statewide, there are more than 550,000 registered voters in South Dakota. The breakdown, by percentage is as follows: 47.8% Republican, 28% Democrat, 23.7% Independent, 0.4% Libertarian, and 0.2% other.

With that ratio, one would expect that the South Dakota legislature would reflect similarly, but it really does not. The 2020 legislature was made up of 91 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and no other parties.

In other words, a group consisting of 85% Republicans made laws for a state that does not hold 50% of its voters as registered Republicans.

The state delegation in national government is not any more representative of the voting base. The representation for the state in Washington, D.C. has been all Republican since the retirement of Senator Tim Johnson in 2014. That is the first time that has occurred in South Dakota since 1982, when Clint Roberts served as Representative and Larry Pressler and James Abdnor served as Senators. The state has actually been served by three Democrats more recently, as Johnson and Tom Daschle served as Senators alongside Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in 2004, albeit only for a matter of months as Herseth Sandlin was voted into office in the middle of Bill Janklow’s term and John Thune defeated Daschle in that fall’s general election for Senate.

The rise in non-affiliated and independent voters nationally and in South Dakota is in stark contrast to the polarization seen daily in Washington, D.C. and now beginning to come from Pierre. Voters strongly desire candidates who aren’t simply going farther and farther into a corner but instead have the ability to work across the aisle and within differences inside the party to get meaningful legislation that helps all people within the state.

South Dakota has become a laughingstock nationally of late for lobbyist bills of extremist groups who believe that the “far right” makeup of the current legislature makes it a prime breeding ground for bills that take away basic human rights. Sadly, while most of those bills do get defeated, they gain attention simply by being introduced and considered.

The state deserves better. The registered electorate certainly doesn’t pull the way of those bills, and neither should its representative legislative body.

Consider that when reading through, watching, and listening to the barrage of political ads over the next 100 days or so. No matter what party you are registered under, seek candidates that want to work together like real South Dakotans do.