Gov. Daugaard Brings War Against Republican Base Into the Open

Phil Jensen


I see that Gov. Dennis Daugaard is taking the war against the Republican base to the next level.

Back in 2010, Dennis Daugaard was one of my last choices for governor. He had been Lieutenant Governor under the RINO Mike Rounds–who himself managed to slither into the GOP nomination in 2002 after the two best candidates publicly annihilated one another in a bitter battle. I didn’t have a whole lot of specific reasons to oppose Daugaard, other than the realization that as a solid conservative myself, I would have found it difficult if not impossible to have sat second-chair in such a liberal, mealy-mouthed “Republican” administration for all those years…so how could any other real conservative have done so with such apparent ease? There were also rumors, admittedly not completely substantiated, that Daugaard had stumped for Governor Rounds on some of Rounds’ more “centrist” initiatives. Finally, when you consider that there were other more reliably conservative candidates, Daugaard was pretty far down on the scale of desirability for a committed Republican like myself.

Early in 2011, as Gov. Daugaard made clear his plans for lean government in these tough economic times, I started to entertain the idea that maybe I’d been wrong about him. He was talking like a real Republican–and acting a lot like one, too. Of course, it didn’t hurt that public outrage over exorbitant state salaries hit right as the 2011 legislative session was getting underway, either.

Rick Kriebel 2016


But then, even as it was too late to do anything about it, SB 38 and SB 43 popped onto the scene, underneath most people’s radar, filled with enough legalese to leave most people who weren’t “in on it” wondering what they really did and whether they were good or bad. We realized, too late to mount opposition in the legislature before the session ended, that they were precursors to ObamaCare, massaging South Dakota’s health care system so that it became more “compatible” with the dictates of ObamaCare. Gov. Daugaard and the bill’s supporters told us these bills were intended to keep the feds from interfering in our health care system; the reality they glossed over was the fact that with this legislation, the feds didn’t need to interfere with our system, because we were doing it to ourselves.

It is beginning to become apparent that some “Republicans” in South Dakota government are not just acquiescing to the ObamaCare agenda, but are actually hell-bent on more government meddling in health care in South Dakota. A few years ago, South Dakota commissioned the Zaniya Project to study our health care system.  Despite the fact that this commission confirmed what most of us who knew anything about government health care already knew (i.e. that government health care always stinks, that “free” health care means reduced quality of care, that access to health care isn’t really a problem in South Dakota, that waiting room times are short in South Dakota…though that would certainly get worse under government health care, that many of those who don’t have health insurance don’t want it in the first place, and that strengthening marriage–instead of weakening it, as liberals are hell-bent upon–will help health care coverage). It’s almost as if some in our government looked at the results of this study and said: “Yep, all the evidence points toward more freedom and a free market system. Therefore, we will insist upon government control.”

The state has now accepted a $1 million “gift” from the federal government to work on establishing the ObamaCare health care exchanges

Woodrow Wilcox


For the past several years since the passage of ObamaCare, some Republicans in Pierre have attempted to pass legislation like several other states have which helps protect our citizens against this egregious federal intrusion.  “Republicans” in Pierre, however, vote such efforts down each year. Last year, we heard very credible rumors that the governor was distributing talking points to his minions on how to kill bills that would protect the people of South Dakota from ObamaCare.

We also learned earlier this year that the state is advertising a job opening for a health care exchange project manager, moving forward with the ObamaCare agenda.

Now we learn of another $5.9 million taxpayer-funded “gift” from the federal government to study setting up a state health care exchange. It seems that playing ball with the federal despots is very lucrative.

I suppose we should be thankful that Gov. Daugaard says the state will wait to see if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns this blatantly unconstitutional assault on freedom and innocent human life. However, it seems Daugaard is hedging his bets, since the state applied for this $5.9 million taxpayer-funded “gift” in the same month the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on ObamaCare. Does South Dakota have a government of principle, or payola? It’s looking pretty obvious it’s the latter and NOT the former.

We’ve also seen Gov. Daugaard come down on the opposite side of Second Amendment rights. Some of his allies killed the first “constitutional carry” bill submitted in the past session so they could “punish” a gun rights group for exposing the liberal voting records of some legislators. Realizing it was an election year in a very pro-gun state, some of the same people who voted down the first bill voted for a virtually identical second bill (that was not publicly endorsed by the gun rights group that the great lords needed to “punish“). Unfortunately, Gov. Daugaard vetoed this bill when it hit his desk. I wonder if this veto been coordinated with those same lords who shot down the first bill, enabling them a “cover vote” which seemed to be “in favor of gun rights” on the second bill in an election year. I don’t know, but with all the collusion and moral corruption going on in the “Republican” party in South Dakota these days, I really have to wonder.

Last year, after a pathetic session where several textbook Republican issues were trampled by the “Republican” leadership (gun rights, dealing with illegal immigration, drug testing for welfare recipients suspected of using drugs, protecting against Shariah law, stopping ObamaCare in South Dakota, etc.), conservative groups started producing scorecards on legislator performance. At a time when “Republicans” enjoyed super-majorities in both the state House and Senate (73% in the House and 86% in the Senate) and we should have seen good conservative legislation sailing through with amazing speed and ease, instead it almost seemed as if the Republicans were at about 45% and the Democrats were at 65%. The way the votes broke down–regardless of whether the legislator had a “D” or an “R” after their name–it seems we had a de facto 45/65 Republican/Democrat split, for the conservative agenda was mostly stalled while the liberal agenda was making gains.

The scorecards produced last year pointed out some disturbing trends, especially among “Republicans.” Many couldn’t have achieved a passing grade in an academic setting, and some “Republicans” couldn’t even break 50%.

Instead of looking at these as an opportunity to get more in tune with the values and platform of their chosen party, many of these “Republicans” sneered and scoffed. More scorecards were produced on a variety of conservative issues throughout the year; time after time, instead of seizing the opportunity to get their thinking more in line with the party they had aligned themselves with, these RINOs grew more and more belligerent toward Republican values.  Excuses that the scorecards “cherry picked” issues got pretty thin after four or more scorecards on a variety of conservative issues revealed similar results every time.

Things even came to the point where the Left-leaning GOP leadership repeatedly blocked efforts to make it easier for the taxpayers to see how their representatives voted on the legislative website (liberals usually like to hide their records, while conservatives usually tout theirs). The leadership eventually threw out of the Republican caucus two of the members most dedicated to Republican principles and planks (one of those was the legislator pushing hardest for changes to the legislative website). The liberal pretenders who are now running the South Dakota GOP have declared open war on the principles of our party, and upon anyone who dares expect “Republicans” to uphold those principles.

Today we learned that apparently Daugaard is willing to take the war on the Republican base to the next level. I heard about some of this over the weekend, and the Rapid City Journal reports today that  Gov. Daugaard–in a move I cannot recall a governor ever making before–has endorsed one Republican over another Republican in the primary. As unusual as this is, one might consider it understandable if the governor had endorsed a Republican who solidly supports Republican values over one who has made a mockery of Republican values. Unfortunately, in several cases, he has clearly chosen the one who makes a mockery of Republican principles over the one who best reflects Republican principles. What’s more, I thought party officials (and unless I’m mistaken, the governor is a member of the Republican Party executive board) were prohibited from showing favoritism in the primary.

But back to the governor endorsing poor representatives of Republican values, Daugaard went to Spearfish last weekend to stump for and raise money for state Senator Tom Nelson.  Our ostensibly pro-life Governor Daugaard has publicly endorsed and raised money for a “Republican” candidate who received an “F” from South Dakota Right to Life for his 2011-2012 record. Nelson has voted two years in a row in favor of embryonic stem cell research which destroys an innocent human life. He has also voted in favor of requiring insurance companies to cover abortifacients. On one of the scorecards of the past year, Nelson received a score of 40% with issues examined including open government, pro-life issues, ObamaCare, affirming the 9th and 10th Amendments, parental rights and illegal immigration. He received a 36% score on a different scorecard dealing with issues such as drug testing for welfare recipients, education, gun rights, and taxes. On another of the scorecards of this past year, Nelson received a score of 17% for votes on issues including homeschooling, tax increases, pro-life issues, homosexual issues and human trafficking.

Some of Daugaard’s “favored ones” have pretty good records in some areas including pro-life issues. Others, like Deb Peters, are pathetic excuses for a “Republican.” In case you aren’t familiar with Peters’ record, she is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, voted in lockstep for SB 38 and SB43, and has opposed efforts to deal with illegal immigration in South Dakota.  Even those who have good pro-life records of voting to restrict abortion are watering down their record if they are promoting or allowing ObamaCare; ObamaCare is a vehicle to expand abortion and is an open assault on religious liberty. You can’t facilitate ObamaCare and honestly claim to be pro-life, neither can you facilitate its implementation and (credibly) claim you’re against it. Meanwhile, Peters’ primary opponent, Lora Hubbel, is a consistent conservative and an ardent opponent of ObamaCare and anything that moves us closer to it.

The common thread among these “favored ones” of the governor seems to be that they can all be relied on to play ball with the governor’s agenda. Whether they are good in some areas or not, when compared to their primary opponents, it’s apparent that the governor’s favorites are those who can be relied on to go along with little or no protest. The governor’s favorites have made it clear that they will not rock the boat, that they will go along with whatever the governor wants to do…whether it sells out GOP principles or not, whether it throws the freedom of the people of South Dakota under the bus or not.

Obviously, we have a full-scale civil war going on in the Republican Party. Efforts proffered by conservatives last year to nudge rogue RINOs back into compliance with  Republican goals and values were met with pure contempt. The RINO establishment made it clear in the past legislative session that Republicans are expected to throw their principles out the door and get in lockstep with the more Democrat-like (Democrats are, after all, known for supporting government health care, opposing gun rights, protecting illegal immigration, resisting attempts to promote responsibility, etc.) agenda of the ruling lords.

And now Gov. Daugaard has come completely out of the shadows to show what seems to have been his true colors all along,  embracing very liberal candidates, so long as they will “play ball” with his agenda.

A political party has two basic purposes: (1) to serve as a vehicle for a set of ideas to transport those ideas to fruition, (2) to provide a platform to attain political power.

People see one or the other of these as being the most important. The truth is, you (a) need political power to (b) see your ideas to fruition. The problem comes when #1 is separated from #2, or perhaps more aptly put, when #2 eclipses #1 to the point where #1 is optional or even unimportant.

The conservative base of the GOP understands that #1 is the most important function of the Republican Party. After all, what good is a flashy vehicle with lots of power under the hood…if it’s taking you in the wrong direction (perhaps over a cliff)? That’s what we have now: a GOP vehicle that has liberals (Democrats in Republican clothing) at the wheel steering us Left.

Real Republicans have an uphill climb ahead of us if we are going to make the South Dakota Republican Party Republican again. The liberals control most of the reins of government as well as most of the reins of party leadership. Many of them are wealthy and have plenty of resources; some are lawyers with extensive and powerful networks. They have the might,  the money, the influence, the connections, and the time to fight to maintain the fiefdom they have secured.

Most of the real Republicans are busy trying to make ends meet, raise families, and frankly just want to be left alone. All we have on our side is the established set of Republican values, and what’s right.  Call me crazy, but I’ll still bet on what’s right eventually winning in the end.

For as Ronald Reagan said in 1964,



“We don’t intend to turn the Republican Party over to the traitors in the battle just ended. We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals as our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the party over to the so-called moderates wouldn’t make any sense at all.”

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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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  • TRacy Saboe

    Over half of the Republicans in this state are only Republicans because that’s the only way to get elected. There’s only about 15 solid conservative Republicans in the entire state legislature.

    BTW. Vote for Ron Paul in the Primary ballot. Let’s get some real conservatives at the national convention as well, instead of a bunch of RINOs.

  • Troy Jones

    Who are the top fifteen Republican candidates running this year?

    And who are the least?

    Bob, put names on these accusations. And being the real Republican you are, I am sure you are up to it.

    P.S. Don’t ya hate it there are so few real Republicans that Romney crushed everyone in the primary?

    • I think we all know the names on these accusations. If you can’t figure it out, there’s more than enough information already present. I’m sure you are up to it.

      Yes, I do indeed lament the fact that (a) real Republicans were divided among several candidates which in part or in whole exemplified Republican values, enabling (b) the liberal RINO lie that “only Romney can win” to (c) fool a lot of Republicans who otherwise should know better into getting behind a pathetic pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-cap-and-trade, pro-socialized health care charlatan like Mitt Romney.

      Things looked pretty bleak for Ronald Reagan and his fellow conservatives at one point…but conservatism eventually gained ascendency. We’ll do it again, and the next time we won’t let our guard down and let you RINO pretenders take over our party again.

      Enjoy your time in the sun, for it’ll come to an end.

      • Troy Jones

        C’mon Bob. You keep mentioning all these Rhino’s running the party. Name them. And, tell us who you think would be better. Let the GOP base assess your charges based on the names you name.

        • So you can’t figure out who’s in charge of the party and party leadership in Pierre? Perhaps I expected too much of you. In fact, I know I did-as we always do of RINOs. Loyalty to Republican principles and honesty about their own liberal proclivities simply isn’t in the nature of RINOs. After all, you’d be completely out of power if most people knew your true colors.

          (We’re working on fixing that, by the way)

        • Since Bob has better things to do with his time, and you’re apparently too lazy to figure it out for yourself who the RINO’s are….,
          I’ll just name a few to just to get you started :

          Rep. Gene Abdallah (anti-gun, pro-higher taxes, “takes a walk” during the floor vote HB1217 indicating he’s probably not really pro-life either, voted FOR SB43 and took money from SDAHO (pro-Obamacare PAC)

          Sen. Deb Peters (pro-abortion, pro-higher taxes, anti-gun, took money from pro-obamacare PAC and voted FOR SB43 & SB38, )

          Sen. Mike Vehle (pro-higher taxes, pro-abortion, took money from pro-obamacare PAC and voted FOR SB43 & SB38, )

          Rep. Val Raush (formerly registered as a Dem., took money from pro-obamacare PAC and voted FOR SB43 & SB38, )

    • WXRGina

      Who are you, Troy? And, what the heck is your point, other that to sound like a flaming liberal who is unwilling or unable to see that we did actually have conservatives running in the primaries before the forces of-well, the forces-took them out?