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When Perfect is the Enemy of the Good – Or the Sane [OPINION]

FILE: Voter Registration
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I was reading some of the various South Dakota blogs this morning, when I stumbled across a post by South Dakota expatriate Cory Heidelberger, whom had been sent copies of State Senator and US Senate candidate Larry Rhoden’s Voter registration cards from when he had first registered to vote in 1978, and a voter registration change in 1998.

In 1978 as a 19-year-old, when he first registered to vote, Rhoden had registered originally as a member of the Democratic Party. In 1998, he changed to be a Republican.

And that matters because…?

You see changing political parties is viewed as some as a cardinal sin, for which no number of “Hail Mary’s” will provide absolution.

Me? I’m not part of that crowd.

If anything, I found myself a bit horrified that someone would cast judgement upon a person for their selection of a political party on their voter registration THIRTY FIVE years ago.

Even worse, someone had to go to the Meade County Auditor to request those documents. They had to pay money for the copies. And they then took the affirmative action of sending it out to someone in hopes of it being publicized to the detriment of State Senator Rhoden.

I Imagine how most high school students choose their political affiliations at the time of registration; based on their views, or what they’ve been taught by parents or teachers. Frankly, many high school seniors aren’t as politically aware as they should be, and sometimes their political affiliations are chosen a little superficially.

Not all, but some.

As they grow and accumulate knowledge, they might reassess those opinions, and realign their views. That’s what people do, all the time, into and through out their adulthood.

Before I met my wife, she had a different party registration. At some point she changed it. I don’t think any less of her for doing so.

Around four years ago, I was helping Scott Munsterman, a candidate for Governor in his pursuit of that office. He freely admitted that he had originally been not just a Democrat, but a Minnesota Democrat at one time, and changed his registration to Republican upon coming to the State.

Ronald Reagan himself, who inspires many modern conservative Republicans, converted from Democrat to Republican in his lifetime. I doubt the naysayers would call him a RINO (Republican in Name Only) for his actions.

With the release of Rhoden’s voter registration, I think the questions we should be asking in this instance is “Who felt the need to do this?” and “Why would they do this?”  Because it wasn’t for a noble goal.  It wasn’t to raise the quality of political discourse.

If anything, it was the opposite of quality and nobility. If anything, it was a call for a litmus test.

And the last time I checked, the Republican party I belonged to doesn’t have one. And people who call for one do so with selfishness in their hearts. They drive people from the big tent of Ronald Reagan.

It makes no sense to idolize Ronald Reagan in one breath, and to demonize Larry Rhoden in the next for the exact same thing.

One of the primary challenges that Craig Lawrence, State Chairman for the South Dakota Republican Party has taken on since becoming Chairman is to explore why many young people are choosing to register as independents, as opposed to affiliating with a political party that aligns with their ideals.

When political purity tests come up, and Rhoden’s voter registration from 35 years ago are splashed into the media so someone can use it to beat him down, ideals are not involved. And I suspect more people were just driven to avoid politics altogether.

Because what was done to Rhoden is the absolute antithesis of the work the SDGOP is doing to attract people to register Republican.  It is utterly offensive. And destructive to the work people are trying to do to build the Republican brand in South Dakota.

History is riddled with the wreckage of movements for various kinds of absolute purity; eugenics, racial cleansing, nationalism, and many other types. And they are no different than the calls for political purity in this instance, and the castigation of Rhoden for not meeting their litmus test.

It is a case of someone’s demand for perfection being the enemy of the good. Or the sane.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pat Powers and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

South Dakota War College

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