South Dakota has a strange love affair with U.S. Senator John Thune (at least as seen by the rest of world). Many people can't understand why South Dakota would vote out Tom Daschle, someone with seniority, clout, influence and good leadership (okay, he had a hard time doing his taxes, but what politician doesn't), and vote in John Thune.
For any South Dakotan, the political move from Daschle to Thune makes perfect sense. The folks of the Northern Great Plains strongly believe in their values and way of life, yet they struggle with their image when their perspectives move to a national stage. This conundrum of belief and identity are residual effects of the Scandinavian concept of Jante Law. Jante Law is an interesting variable considering Daschle's political fall: I remember that South Dakota public discourse and conventional wisdom said that Daschle was getting "too big for his britches." He needed to be voted out. It didn't matter that Daschle was Senate Majority Leader, accomplished much for South Dakota through his position, and was a marginal presidential candidate--Daschle had to be taken down a peg or two. It didn't help matters that he was a Democrat, either.
The love being articulated for Thune sounds a little like Brokeback Mountain, with which people in the state tried to distance themselves through vitriol and condemnation. I had to laugh when I read the commentary on Thune's rising prominence in the aforementioned link. While I lived in South Dakota, I found the politics maddening. Now that I'm on the outside looking in, South Dakota politics are interesting.
Thanks to Allison Kilkenny's recent blog post referencing Thune for the inspiration to reflect upon my life with South Dakota politics.