In my 33 year and counting career in politics, I have done my share of both candidate campaigning and issue campaigning. In the last 15 years or so, frankly, I have been more inclined to spend most of my time on the latter, because just fighting the candidate battles doesn’t necessarily move the ball forward in terms of making our country better. I got into politics to fight for the working class and poor families I grew up with in the Midwest, and I have found it far more satisfying to be about helping them through issue fights than in helping candidates who may or may not help them someday. The last several months since the last election are a reminder that even when Democrats win elections, it is no guarantee that good things will start happening for regular folks.
Having said that, I do get reminded how important it is to elect people who will actually fight for working families- not just part of the time, not just when it is convenient, but fighting for those families every day with all their heart and all their soul. Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown remind me every week why it was a great use of my time to have been involved in helping them in last year’s elections. Brown’s recently filed bill to put pressure on the Too Big To Fail banks is a shot across the bow that has the biggest banks on the defensive; Warren’s perfectly framed bill to let students pay back their college loans at the same rate of interest that the banks get from the Federal Reserve discount window has the bankers and their allies like Third Way screaming bloody murder; and it seems like every time there is a Banking Committee hearing and Warren starts asking someone questions, important things get raised that desperately needed attention. Warren and Brown are making a huge difference, showing us that if we get a real live two-fisted fighter for working families in the ring on our behalf, it matters.
That’s why I spent most of my time in the 2012 election cycle where I was working on elections working on behalf of Warren and Brown. I knew they would fight hard for the same people I was fighting for, and I knew they would make a difference. And that is why I decided early in this cycle to get involved in helping Rick Weiland run for Senate in South Dakota.
Rick is a small businessman, a restaurant owner, in Sioux Falls. He has been involved in the non-profit sector, and worked for Tom Daschle for many years early in his career so he knows the politics of the state well. I think this diverse profile will help him a lot, and the fact that Daschle and, I'm sure, Tim Johnson will be backing him to the hilt will matter a lot- those 2 have won a ton of elections in SD over the years.
I support Rick because he will fight for the middle class and for those young and poor people trying to work their way into it. I support him because I know he will be fearless about fighting Wall Street and other big corporate special interests that control our nation’s government. His campaign will be all about taking our country back from those special interests so that it is on the side of everyday people again. We need more fighters like that in the United States Senate. He’s not going to agree with me on every issue, but that’s okay- I don’t know of any politician who does. But I know he will battle on behalf of the folks I care about every single day.
There are always questions about a candidate like Rick from a red state being able to win. But I don’t get into races where I don’t think the candidate has a clear path to victory, and I very much believe there is one here. The way Daschle and Johnson won in South Dakota election after election for decades is that they went out to all the rural counties of the state and appealed to the working class folks in those places on economic issues; they maximized turnout in Indian country and in college towns; and they showed South Dakotans that their opponents were owned by their special interest benefactors. The same strategy has worked for other populist campaigns in the region over many years, from Schweitzer and Tester in Montana to Dorgan and Heitkamp in North Dakota to Harkin in Iowa. That same path to victory is absolutely open to Rick Weiland.
I hope other progressives will join me in getting excited about helping this campaign. He is own man, and won’t agree with every single thing we do. But like Schweitzer and Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, he will fight on the side of everyday people, and take on the wealthy and powerful special interests to do it.