Tuesday, May 27, 2008


On Friday I drove up to Kadoka to vote early for the South Dakota democratic primary (I'm flying down to Houston on Sunday, so I'll miss the excitement). The county auditor was on lunch break; I decided to walk up to the Jackson County Library to peruse some magazines, but it seemed that the librarian was on lunch break, too. I ended up having to sit around for twenty minutes in the County Courthouse. Just before 1 pm, various county officers paraded back into their various offices from lunch break.

About two weeks ago I took off from school early--I was only going to have three students that afternoon, anyway--to drive down to Pine Ridge to see Bill Clinton speak. He spoke in Mission yesterday; I've heard rumors that Hillary will be speaking in Kyle later this week. Meanwhile, Obama hasn't made it out of the "big cities" in the east of the state.

Bill had a series of talking points tailor made for the reservations: health care (Indian Health Services per patient funds are half of those for federal prisoners); diabetes; education; alternative energy sources. People who caught him in Mission confirmed that he spoke about the same issues there. Clinton did well by Indian County when he was in office. I've lost my notes from his speech, so I can't confirm any of positive policies he put in place, but I do remember him stating that when he visited the same high school gymnasium a decade earlier, he was the first President to visit a reservation since FDR.

Obama seems like the frontrunner for June 3 here in South Dakota; in an April 3 poll, he led Clinton 46% to 34% and NPR recently reported that he is easily out fund raising Clinton here. But a strong turnout of Native American voters could make fund raising numbers irrelevant. I was recently told that Native Americans are the country's most Democratic demographic; given that South Dakota is far from the most Democratic place in the country, if the Clintons can successfully galvanize the Native populations it could be a closer race than people anticipate.

Will the Clinton's strategy of campaigning on the reservations pan out? I mostly know the sympathies of youth here--of my own students, too young to vote, and of the twenty-somethings that are aides in my friends' classrooms--and, as seems true across the country, the youth seem excited about Obama. His "First Americans for Obama" seems to have met with success, too; I recently heard a radio story about how, upon becoming the first Presidential candidate to visit the Crow Nation in Montana, he was "adopted" into the tribe (complete with adoptive parents).

Which is why I'm disappointed that Obama has chosen not to visit us here in South Dakota, too. He may not need South Dakota to win the nomination--and he may not need the Rez vote to win South Dakota--but maybe he will. There is one more week. Are you coming, Barack?

No comments: