On the campaign trail, career politician Dusty Johnson slams Washington as he seeks re-election – The South Dakota Standard
On Wednesday, August 3, as a month-long hiatus in Congress was just beginning, Rep. Dusty Johnson (seen above in an image of Brownfields Agricultural News) held a one-hour public meeting in Rapid City. The event was well attended and it appeared that the majority of the crowd was conservative.
The ongoing congressional investigation into the January 6, 2021, the insurrection is only mentioned once, in passing. Johnson expressed concern about deficit spending and declined to approve more Peace Corps funding at the request of a member of the public.
We live in a time when almost every issue, from the validity of same-sex marriage to the need to help veterans with cancer following a exposure to combustion fireplaces, is very partisan. To his credit, our only congressman stood up for civility in the public square and promised to participate in a debate on South Dakota’s public broadcasting with his only opponent in the election, Libertarian candidate Collin Duprel de Vale, who was in the audience.
Interestingly, Johnson found time to bashing the legendary Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, who served in Congress from 1953 to 1987, the last 10 years as Speaker of the House. “His nose was as big as my head,” Johnson said, apparently because of the whiskey O’Neill consumed while negotiating political deals with his opponents.
O’Neill, who became president the year after Dusty Johnson was born, was a liberal Democrat who represented Cambridge, Mass., and much of Boston, having first been elected when the young representative from that district , John F. Kennedy, moved to the Senate. He was part of Congress that passed landmark civil rights legislation and created Medicare to meet the health care needs of the elderly.
Despite his ideological leanings, O’Neill developed a cordial working relationship with Ronald Reagan and was clearly willing to work across the aisle for the good of the country.
Dusty Johnson pointed out that he did not move his family to Washington and that he returned home every weekend to meet his constituents and spend time at his home in Mitchell. Ironically, O’Neill kept his family in Massachusetts when he was elected to Congress in part because he thought he would return home to run for governor in a few years (which he didn’t). ever made) and later described it as the “sadest decision”. of his political career.
His job was in Washington, and in retrospect he wished he had moved there with his family.
Members of Congress used to socialize on weekends, meet for backyard barbecues, and build relationships with colleagues. They didn’t need to fundraise and campaign all year.
In fact, two US senators who served during Tip O’Neill’s time, Margaret Chase Smith (R-Me) and William Proxmire (D-Wis.)refused to spend money on campaign advertising and managed to keep their seats by traveling to their states, appearing at forums and town halls, and meeting voters one-on-one.
Such a principled position would be unthinkable today, since congressional campaigns routinely cost millions of dollars.
Congress in the mid to late 20th century was not consistently portrayed as “dysfunctional.” There was occasional filibuster, on very controversial issues, but filibuster was not routinely used to block legislation. Few issues were decided in a party-line vote. Members did not consistently rush for the airport on Thursday afternoon.
The legendary scene involving Dusty Johnson’s predecessor, Kristi Noemmissing a committee vote because she was busy on her mobile phone, would be unfamiliar to her.
Like Tip O’Neill, Dusty Johnson appears to be a career politician. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2018, he served on the Public Services Commission and served as chief of staff to Governor Dennis Daugaard. Sometimes he cultivates the image of a thoughtful moderate who wants to cross party lines, but then he goes back to his gopher hole when he senses opposition. Time will tell if Dusty has any real impact on the pressing issues of our time, as Tip O’Neill certainly did over his long career.
Jay Davis is a retired attorney from Rapid City