On the South Dakota GOP Platform

Photo credit: Ed Randazzo

Photo credit: Ed Randazzo

The Platform Committee of the South Dakota Republican Party held the second of two public hearings on the South Dakota GOP platform tonight in Rapid City; the first was held last night in Sioux Falls.

The purpose of the public hearing was to receive input from Republican voters on what the South Dakota Republican Party platform should say, in preparation for the South Dakota GOP Convention in Rapid City later this week.

Using the 2012 platform as a guide, the members of the Platform Committee who were present, John Teupel and Jenna Haggar, read each section of the platform and then took comments on that section.

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There was discussion about in the preamble section about this paragraph:

The South Dakota Republican Party believes the 21st Century requires continued responsible leadership. Leadership must neither burden nor hinder individual rights and efforts. Leadership must also be mindful of the Republican Platform and the fundamental principles of the Constitution of the United States of America. We believe the most effective and responsible government is government closest to the people.

In light of the multitude of betrayals of the Republican platform by many members of GOP leadership, ideas were proposed on how to better hold Republican government officials accountable to the platform.  Questions were asked whether “be mindful” was strong enough. It was pointed out that another section of the platform encourages Republican candidates to be familiar with and pledge to support the platform:

5.17 The South Dakota Republican Party encourages those who run for public office in South Dakota as a Republican to familiarize themselves with, and pledge to support, the platform of the South Dakota Republican Party.

Concerns were raised over 1.5 in the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy section:

1.5 The South Dakota Republican Party supports efforts to take advantage of the state’s incredible renewable energy resources. Renewable energy, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and power created by water, wind, solar energy and biomass, must become a larger piece of our nation’s energy supply. South Dakota should work toward becoming a leader in the production and delivery of energy.

Concerns primarily involved the wisdom of supporting energy enterprises which are unable to support themselves in a free market economy.

Testimony also suggested a stronger statement of support for traditional natural resources as well as nuclear energy in 1.6. Support for fracking was also mentioned; a pro-fracking bill was killed at the request of Governor Dennis Daugaard a couple of years ago.

In section 2.0 Economic Development and jobs, testimony recommended the inclusion of language in section 2.6 that government should not favor one enterprise over another.

Recognition for the sacrifices of military families was recommended in section 2.8.

Section 2.9, dealing with partnerships and cooperation between telecommunications providers and government, brought a suggestion to include language about privacy concerns, in light of recent revelations concerning NSA data harvesting.

Section 2.12 brought a suggestion for a statement of support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Section 3.0 Health and Human Services brought a suggestion for a statement of support for both veterans and Native American health care, including not only improvement of quality for existing government systems but exploring private health care options.

Additional suggestions for 3.0 included language in clear opposition to not only government health care systems in general, but ObamaCare specifically, as well as support for health care sharing ministries and opposition to the legalization of marijuana.

In Section 4.0 Education and Cultural Affairs, suggestions were made to add “age appropriate” language for reading programs (some said reading assignments for young children in public schools have not been age appropriate), as well as specific support for math programs in addition to existing statements of support for reading programs.

There was considerable discussion on Common Core in light of the existing statement in the platform:

The South Dakota Republican Party supports parental choice and local control in education in our state. The South Dakota Republican Party opposes any further state mandated adoption of what are generally known as ‘Common Core Standards’ in areas of academic study in our K-12 schools beyond what has currently been adopted and acknowledges those decisions should be made at the discretion of each individual school district.

Many felt this language was not strong enough, and that the GOP needs to take a stand against Common Core in general and rolling it back in South Dakota. One suggestion involved adding a statement of agreement with the Republican National Committee resolution against Common Core. Another suggestion involved adding language opposing not just “Common Core” but “any national multi-state” education standard.

There was considerable discussion on section 4.4:

4.4 The South Dakota Republican Party supports sex education classes that include instruction to students on the social, psychological, economic, and health gains to be realized by abstinence from sexual activity until marriage. No state-sponsored sex education should glamorize or support adolescent sexual activity to students.

Some believed it should be removed altogether, as it is not government’s responsibility to teach children about sex. Some believe that the section’s focus on abstinence and sexual responsibility makes it an acceptable plank in the platform.  Others believed statements should be added in support of parental notification and opt-outs.

In light of section 4.9

4.9 The South Dakota Republican Party supports the teaching of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the S.D. Constitution, the Federalist Papers and other important historical documents. The Party also supports emphasizing the principles and values upon which our nation was founded.

the suggestion was also made to back up the 2012 HCR 1004 to offer education on the Bible as an elective course in public schools.

Section 4.10 says

4.10 The South Dakota Republican Party supports the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools and opposes deletions, changes or amendments to the Pledge. The Party supports the display of the South Dakota Motto – “Under God, the People Rule” – in our schools. The Party also supports display of the Ten Commandments in our schools.

The suggestion was made to change this language to support the display of the state motto and Ten Commandments not only in schools but in “any public building” in the state.

Section 5.16 in the Governmental Affairs section reads:

5.16 The South Dakota Republican Party supports efforts to require the courts of South Dakota to refrain from relying upon foreign law and judgments that are contrary to the public policy of South Dakota.

It was suggested to strengthen the language to read not just “public policy of South Dakota” but rather “U.S. and South Dakota Constitutions” and perhaps “contrary justice systems.”

A suggestion for this section was also made to add a plank in support of preserving the electoral college system.

Section 6.0 on Public Safety and Security brought suggestions on 6.4

6.4 The South Dakota Republican Party supports our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms and opposes any further attempts to restrict private firearms ownership.

Many wanted to remove the “further” from the statement because many “Republicans” in South Dakota government resist efforts to promote and expand law-abiding firearms ownership. Some wanted to see language protecting government intrusion into private law-abiding gun sale transactions, as well as support for “Constitutional Carry” legislation.

Section 6.6 brought vigorous discussion in support of language about protecting privacy, unreasonable data collection by the government and private-government cooperatives, as well as concerns over the militarization of local police departments.

6.6 The South Dakota Republican Party supports a strong and reasonable approach to homeland security while protecting our borders and our liberties; and maintaining a secure state and nation.

Section 7.0 on Family and Community Values brought a suggestion to add video games to the 7.4 section opposition to media which glamorizes illegal drug use and/or the exploitation of adults or children.

Section 7.5 deals with marriage:

7.5 The South Dakota Republican Party believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and must never be redefined to include civil unions of same-sex couples, or groups of individuals. To defend the sanctity of marriage, we support the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment and appropriate South Dakota laws. We affirm that it is in the best interest of children to be raised by a mother and a father.

Approval for this section was hearty and widespread among those in attendance, but there was one suggestion that the language in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment be removed to avoid making changes to the Constitution. This was opposed by at least one individual, however, who pointed out that since the amendment has been articulated for a number of years, any risks in amending the Constitution are minimal. Further, it was argued that as illustrated by recent actions taken by the U.S. Supreme Court against marriage, and by the federal court system in general to destroy marriage, a constitutional protection is needed now more than ever.

Section 7.6 brought a suggestion to change “unborn” to “preborn,” reflecting the most common language used nationwide today, as well as better recognizing the humanity and dignity of children in the womb.

It was suggested that section 7.7 should just way “we oppose abortion” rather than qualifying it.

Additional planks were suggested to oppose human trafficking, gambling addiction as well as South Dakota’s addiction to gambling revenue, and opposition to a Constitutional Convention (Article V convention).

Suggestions will be considered by the Platform Committee starting the first day of the GOP convention on Thursday, with the platform eventually debated and voted on by the convention delegates before the end of the convention later this week.

While some “Republicans” have made it clear with their words and deeds that, in their eyes, the GOP platform is “just a piece of paper,” it was clear tonight from the discussion, as well as the time and emphasis the GOP spends on the platform, that it is NOT “just a piece of paper” to most Republicans. Rather, it is a statement of our and our party’s deeply held beliefs, principles, values and goals.

In other words, it is what defines us as a party and gives meaning to our party’s existence.


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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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