By David Lias
The Washington Post points out that Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is sort of in a tough spot right now.
Here’s the thing, however – a great portion of our state’s population is in the same predicament.
In other words, Noem should feel in good company as she finds herself in an uneasy political situation.
The Post notes that, right at the time the federal government shutdown began in early October, a devastating blizzard roared through western South Dakota.
Noem can’t control the weather, but she is an active participant in the shutdown, which, as this is being written, has yet to be solved.
The story, written by Joann Weiner, notes that normally, cattle ranchers would go to the local office of the USDA Farm Service Agency to file claims for their losses. They generally have 30 days to apply.
Now, however, those farm offices are closed because of the government shutdown. When offices are closed, claims can’t be filed. And if claims can’t be filed, assistance can’t be paid.
But, Weiner notes, the happenings in South Dakota may not be Noem’s biggest problem. Weiner contends that our representative’s biggest challenge may be convincing her fellow Republicans that support for South Dakota ranchers is an exception to the rule that the federal government is spending too much of the American taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
A week ago, Noem went to the floor of the House of Representatives and insisted that the federal government help ranchers due to the “unprecedented” nature of the blizzard that blew through our state.
Weiner notes the unfortunate timing of Noem’s request. Her plea for additional federal spending comes at a time when Congress hasn’t approved any federal spending at all, thus the federal shutdown.
Weiner writes that, in many ways, Noem has brought this problem upon herself. She’s part of the group of House Republicans who in September refused to fund the federal government unless the Democrats agreed either to defund or to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
That contention can be extended to include us South Dakotans. A majority of us who participated in the last general election, after getting an idea of Noem’s political philosophy and her abilities in Washington, DC as she finished her first term, decided to give her more time. Even though by now we all knew that Noem’s allegiance at times seems to be with the Republicans powers-that-be in Washington rather than us folks here in South Dakota.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader, in its editorial last November endorsing Noem’s re-election, noted that our representative was working in the polarized atmosphere in Congress, “but she still must learn that in South Dakota, representing the people doesn’t always mean toeing the party line. Those politicians that have served before Noem created a tradition of independence for a reason, and she has yet to find that point.”
The Argus noted that South Dakota needs Noem to lead in breaking down political barriers and building bridges as she works hard for her state and nation.
The Argus also suggested Noem should figure out her committee work and show up for her meetings because, despite what she and others may say, that work is important.
“In the end, she needs to dig deeper into issues that lie at the heart of our values and forget about being on message for national party leaders; we don’t need her to tell us what they believe,” stated the Argus endorsement.
Our ranching neighbors in West River are hurting big time right now. Why Noem believes that she can somehow serve as an effective voice in trying to secure federal aid for them while her entire Congressional career has been devoted to voting against nearly all federal spending is a bit of a mystery.
It’s an attitude, however, that seems to be growing in our state. It is easy to forget just how dependent we are on the federal government, on how, disaster or not, our state receives more money back from Washington than we send to the federal treasury.
And yet, we continue to rail against federal spending. We send people to Washington who will do that regressive work for us. Like Noem, we tend to be against federal spending until we are for it. And, we stubbornly believe things should go our way. No need to bother with that “breaking down political barriers and bridge building” stuff.
We hope our ranchers get the federal assistance they need to get back on their feet. We fear, however, that such help may be fleeting at best, thanks, in part, to the decisions we all made in voting booths last November.