Running for his first elected office to the Illinois state legislature, Abraham Lincoln said, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”
It’s with the same esteem for the state legislature that legislative candidates earn the trust of voters every two years. South Dakotans don’t ask much of our legislators, but we expect them to carry out the terms of office for which we elected them and then to evaluate their performance at the ballot box every two years.
That’s why it’s so unsettling to see Senator Mark Johnston (R-Sioux Falls) join two more Republican legislators, Rep. Patty Miller (R-North Sioux City) and Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids), on the list of Republicans who have resigned from office less than six months since voters elected them. It seems Republicans have happened on a new defensive formula to keep power:
Run for office, resign the office, appoint a Republican to the office, and keep the power of the office through incumbency.
Each individual has his own reasons for resigning, but what does his resignation say about the value of the office, the trust of the voters, and the power of Pierre insiders? This year alone, we’ve seen three resignations from the state legislature and one resignation from a statewide office. In the last several years, we’ve seen several more resignations leading gubernatorial appointees to leverage the power of incumbency to keep Republicans in power during general elections. We don’t have elections for Republican officials to resign the office voters gave them and give the Governor his own appointee.
Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican party, would be ashamed to see this blatant abuse of the office. South Dakotans deserve elected officials who esteem the office as much as the voters do. Republicans in Pierre just aren’t valuing the job the voters have given them. And that needs to change.