Kebhart Article in RC Weekly News

State GOP Convention Delegate Sam Kephart had written this editorial in the Rapid City Weekly News, and had sent it to me the other day asking for me to print it. So, without further ado, here's the article:

What’s not working in South Dakota power politics

Samuel R. Kephart

The 2006 fall election cycle is on. Press conferences are being held, signs are getting planted, political ads have begun to run and words are beginning to fly. Serious faces acting out the same partisan war dance of years past.

What’s missing?

Next time you watch your favorite candidate or listen to their message, ask yourself, am I touched, moved and inspired by this person? It’s a pretty simple and effective litmus test for real leadership ... and I’ll bet your answer is no.

South Dakota has big dreams. It wants to assume its rightful place in the global economy, it wants a living wage and affordable health care access for its residents, and it wants to stop exporting its best future — its young people. What’s slowing down or holding up this process? Quite simply stated, it’s the current power structure.

There’s a significant disconnect between our leadership’s stated agenda and what behaviors they, as a group and as individuals, are willing to change to get there. The GOB (good old boys) are alive, well, and in control. And while right-wing conservative Christian Republicans are running things in our state, my comments are not just directed at them — the Democrats appear to have similar issues within their hierarchy.

First, there is a deep fear, bordering on resentment, of newcomers to our state. Instead of being embraced for what they can intellectually and energetically contribute to advance projects important to our future, they are politely greeted and then mostly ignored, because they are “outsiders” and what they have to say is suspect.

I know several individuals with world-class educations and business credentials who have moved to the Black Hills over the last few years. They have all found it virtually impossible to get integrated into the de facto power structure-politically or business-wise.

This past July, I was quoted in a newspaper article debating the size of the Republican Party “tent.” Over the next few days, I heard from several prominent Republican officials. One told me, point blank, that “you haven’t been here long enough to offer a public opinion.” Another advised “Tsk, tsk, Sam, you just don’t understand how things work here yet.” Yet another said, “You have to start at the bottom and work your way up.”

Help me out here. Is there some time clock I neglected to punch when I relocated my family to Spearfish in January 2004? Is there some secret committee that’s the arbiter of who’s worthy and who isn’t?

Another issue with our leaders, both in politics and in business, is their lack of willingness to try genuinely new approaches to solving problems ... and to be coachable.

If you’ve got a new idea, you can usually get a meeting with them and some polite listening, but forget about quick decisions, risk taking, and pursuing out of the box possibilities. Everything is “handled” and “under control” — read “the spoils are already divvied up, why share?” and “that’s how we’ve always done this, why change now?”

The sad thing is South Dakota’s past is dictating its future.

Any farmer or rancher worth his salt knows about the dangers inherent in in-breeding. In general, hybrid crops are more productive and more resistant to disease and drought. An F1 steer (an offspring between a pure-bred Angus and a pure-bred Hereford) is generally reputed to have greater weight gain and better health.

Why can’t we apply the same openness to experiment with ideas regarding our social, political, and economic future?

We are at a crossroads in South Dakota. Great leaps forward can’t and won’t be generated by the GOB and Depression-era hangover, zero-sum thinking. Suspicion of “outsiders,” fear of unorthodox approaches to dealing with issues, resentment of those who are candid in public, and, in general, fixed ways of being, are not character traits compatible with a world class future, regardless of rhetoric or party affiliation.

In life, context is decisive. As Albert Einstein once said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” What’s our leadership pretending not to know ... and why?
Sam Kephart is CEO of Virtual Acumen Corp., a Spearfish-based creative agency specializing in digital media and marketing. He can be reached at
Published 10/04/06 View Section Rapid City Weekly News.

I'd make note of something which I think Sam is talking about, which I have experienced myself. He takes issue with the "good old boys," and I have to admit at times that I've been frustrated with such a system within the GOP from time to time myself. A system that's intractable, and shuts out a segment of the GOP because they don't agree.

But the thing Sam needs to realize is something I found out a long time ago - That if he wants to change the good-ol'-boy system, he needs to get the people he supports elected.

I've found myself at odds with the GOB's in the past, and as people I support have entered the process and shaken up that old power structure, I find myself much less frustrated. Because now my guys are the ones in charge. The same ones he's referring to as the GOB's.

Funny how that works.

I understand what he's saying, but I would counter with that if he wants change, he needs to start with himself to effect it. In other words; if he wants different people in power, "what is he going to do about it?"

If he wants the system to change, just as in any other electoral process, he needs to stand for effecting the change.

If the people I support then get beaten, then that means I need to redouble my efforts to promote my point of view. Amazing how that works.

Support those who support your views. Good advice for a healthy democracy.


Anonymous said…
no comment
Anonymous said…
Is this the pro-abort guy who tried to water down the pro-life plank at the convention?
Anonymous said…
Well gall darnit, if he's not pro life lets just run him the hell right out of the Black Hills and all of South Dakota. That'll fix em.
Anonymous said…
PP is right. The "good old boys" are whoever happens to be in control if it's not who you support. If you support someone who gets in, then they are "forward-thinking" and "willing to try new things." Then its the NEXT group of challengers who "don't get it."
Anonymous said…
If Sam feels "on the outside", maybe it's because he's only lived here for two years, and is quick to state his opinion.

I think what he's experiencing is the South Dakota slow to trust you syndrome. We're generally a friendly folk, but we've been raised to get to know someone learn a little about them before we embrace them, and all the ways they think we should change.

A face that smiles more than it talks is a good first step.
Anonymous said…
Sam is right on target. The good ol boys are a real problem.

Just look at how Rapid City is being run. There are only two or three council members representing the community. The others and the Mayor are clearly in it for themselves.
Anonymous said…
anon 10:01 spoken like a true GOB! You are welcome to come to the meeting but please wait 15 or 20 years to speak. In the meantime we'll do just fine keeping SD in the dark ages.
Anonymous said…
My 20 something kids can't figure out why they're not already the CEO of the company they've worked at for the past three years either.
Anonymous said…
If you ever have met Sam, you'd know he is a quack. Another nut job from California. That's all he is. Kevin Wooster got lucky and found someone to create controversy within the GOP, but he doesn't represent anything but his ego.
Anonymous said…
I'm a GOP good ol body and Sam's statement does have a shred of truth to it.

Here's where he is wrong. GOB's are people who have something in common with each other and bond together to get it done. When someone who beleives differently than them of course you will not realize total acceptance. That's how it works.

If Sam were to embrace the majority ideology and work to see it accomplished he too would have a chance at membership in the GOB network.

What he hasn't realized is that there just are not that many people in positions of power or those wanting to be in positions of power who believe in the same things as what he does.

He can either work to bring people into power who believe like he does or he change the positions of people in power to believe what he does.

Sam's position is disturbing because it presumes that he is right and others are wrong. It presumes that others are unwilling to think for themselves.

Sam: the GOB's have thought through their positions, they have run them by the electorate in past elections and now they are iplementing them. Don't be so scared of democracy.
Anonymous said…
Sam, don't you realize that in SD, the right to free speech (first amendment) doesn't apply. Here you have to earn the right to speak. Other people get to control when you speak based upon how long they have known you.

New ideas are not welcome - but that's your point.

Sam, the fact is that even though you have chosen to be active in the Republican party, the people running the party have rejected both you and your ideas.

The only way to change the Republican party, and SD for the better, is to vote Democratic and hand the GOP a loss. If the GOBs keep winning, they have no reason to change.
Bob Newland said…
Grand Old Pedophiles
Chris Madsen said…
I think Sam makes some good points, and, like PP, I can appreciate some of his frustration. However, the old adage about lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness comes to mind. I respectfully disagree with Sam's position.

Like any organization, the GOP is run by the people who show up. I don't mean the people who go to the meeting once a month and want to speak on every subject, I mean the people who show up all the time. We're really lucky to have some of those GOB's (and women!) in the GOP. Those are the folks who come set up the chairs for the Lincoln Day Dinners and clean up the place afterward. They bake bars for the bake sales. They organize the parades. They spend their weekends putting up campaign signs and then go pick them all up the day after the election. They work at party headquarters. They are the precinct captains that not only go to the state convention, they actually make the calls and walk their neighborhoods.

In Lawrence County, those people are Bill and Jeannie Trent, Vern and Carol Backens, Jim and Eileen Solon, Gladys and John Teupel, Yvonne Foreman. Pat and Lucy McBride and their family (which is almost large enough to be its own voting precinct!), Alice Schavone and Pete and Kim Schavone, Jim and Sally Seward and countless others who selflessly give of their time to do all the things that no one else has time to do (or more likely, really does not want to do). God bless these good old boy and girls who are committed to making the party as strong as it is.

Despite recent events, I remain convinced that the GOP is the big tent party. It really truly is like a big family. We've got our share of loud uncles with goofy ideas, aunts who wear funny hats, cousins who want to start fights and tease the dog, wise grandfathers and grandmothers and just about every other sort of personality. Regardless of how dysfunctional the whole thing might seem at times, we all agree that we are committed to our families, our party, our state and our country and that we only want the best for all the above- we just disagree on how to accomplish the goals.

No one is going to change this party from the outside in and no one is going to make a sea change in the party overnight. PP is exactly right- if you want to make changes, get your folks elected and get them involved. In South Dakota you don't get respect just for showing up, you have to earn it.
Bob Newland said…
Germy Ornery Pedophiles
Anonymous said…
Grossly Overdosed Pothead
nonnie said…
10:40: Good one!!!
Anonymous said…
Sam, as far as the GOP is concerned you are the "loud uncle with the goofy ideas" to quote Chris Madsen.

To paraphrase Madsen, You haven't earned their respect yet, so keep shining their shoes until they say you can wash their dishes.

Stick with it! With time, you too can ge a GOB!

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