I’m back after my visit to the rural red Dakotas, and I guess I should have something smart to say about the attitudes in that place, but I have very little to add to what’s obvious to the readers here: a steady diet of Fox News is impossible to overcome. Young and old, most of the people I know in my old hometown believe a bunch of lies and bullshit, and there’s no getting past it. (Here’s a good piece by Amanda Marcotte on that topic, thanks to my brother.)
What’s interesting to me is the stark divisions that the pandemic reveals about the people I know there. The 4th is a big deal in my old hometown, so I ran into a lot of my old friends and acquaintances, many of whom have moved to “the big city”. Almost uniformly, the people I know who are vaccinated have college degrees and/or live in urban areas. The less educated are less vaccinated, no matter their politics. If I saw someone wearing a mask indoors, it was notable. Yet, the COVID hospitalization and death rates aren’t much different from those in New York, which I attribute to a couple of factors. One is that the vaccination rate among the elderly is pretty good. Another is that a lot of the younger people had COVID already and have some degree of immunity.
I still think there are a couple of things that Democrats could do in the Dakotas. The first is to at least decently fund candidates for federal office. A million bucks, or even $500K, guaranteed to anyone who will run for House or Senate is a worthwhile investment, because the local news will cover you if you’re running, and a candidate with a non-zero chance of beating the incumbent will cause Republicans to spend a lot of money that they wouldn’t otherwise. Second, some third party PAC needs to throw some money into anti-Noem efforts. These include funding a lawsuit against Noem for turning the South Dakota National Guard into a mercenary army funded by big donors, and a non-stop social media campaign to highlight her failures. She’s living in a friction-free Fox-powered world, and someone needs to throw some sand into the gears.