OUR VIEW: Republicans in SD reject extremism
The tea party in particular and extremism in general were dealt what could prove to be fatal defeats Tuesday in South Dakota.
In both the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial primary elections, tea-party-supported candidates were trounced by candidates considered to be more moderate and mainstream.
And it happened in Republican primary elections, so the rebukes came from dedicated Republican voters, who were supposed to be vulnerable to tea party overtures.
In the Republican Senate primary, former governor Mike Rounds, who was described as not conservative enough by his tea-party-backed opponents, got 56 percent of the vote in a five-way race. That would be a nice victory in a two-way race. In a five-way race, it's a landslide.
Among those thwarted by Rounds were tea party favorites Stace Nelson, who received 18 percent of the vote, and Annette Bosworth, who received 6 percent.
In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Gov. Dennis Daugaard cruised to an incredibly easy victory over the tea-party-favored Lora Hubbel. Daugaard received 81 percent of the votes, compared to Hubbel's 19 percent.
Nelson, Bosworth and Hubbel were similar candidates. They all tried to stir up fear, intense dislike and sometimes even hatred of liberalism and claimed that the frontrunning Republicans were not conservative enough to lead an assault against the state's and nation's liberal scourge.
All three were extreme in their views and personal style, and voters clearly saw that.
That's not to say the tea party is a bad institution. Some of the things tea partiers call for, like more honesty, openness and responsiveness from public officials, are things most people support.
But in South Dakota and in many other places, the tea party's message too often veers into the scary fringes of political thought. Some of their hardline opinions, which they view as principled, are more like fundamentalist religious dogma than political philosophy. They deplore compromise and, when allowed to hold too much sway over government, have a terrible effect.
Remember the federal government shutdown last year? Tea partiers in the U.S. House largely caused it and took great pride in it. Meanwhile, people all over the country had their lives disrupted by shuttered government offices, and blizzard-stricken South Dakota ranchers waited for disaster aid as a distracted Congress accomplished nothing but infighting.
Tea partiers in other states have scored surprising victories in Republican primaries in recent years, but the movement has never gained significant influence in South Dakota.
Tuesday, traditional South Dakota Republicans sent a clear message that they're not likely to hand over the reins of their party to extremists anytime soon, and we're glad about that.
South Dakotans, by and large, are reasonable people who understand that extremism does not lead to good government. We hope the winning candidates heard that message Tuesday and are freed from feeling they have to cater to the fringe factions in their party.