I have a long-standing affinity for heretics.
When my daughter was only five, she heard me speaking about heretics, and not long after that, announced that she liked underdogs. “Why?” I asked. “For the same reason you like heretics, Mama. They’re interesting.”
The word ‘heretic’ comes from the Greek word ‘hairesis,’ and means “a taking or a choosing, a choice.” The form haireisthai means more than a gentle decision, though: it means “to seize.”
A heretic is one who, by definition, is not orthodox, a word which comes from two Greek words meaning ‘straight’ or ‘correct’ (ortho-) and ‘opinion’ (doxa).
In other words, heretics “take” their own opinions; they seize them, they hold fast to them, regardless of whether they square with those of the established Establishment.
That’s where heretics get in trouble with the orthodox.
Heretics, you see, are what they are and do what they do because they realize that the orthodox, the people who determine what is the “correct opinion,” are those who, for any number of reasons, have the power.
Heretics provoke us to wonder whether orthodox power distorts orthodox opinions.
Heretics have the chutzpah to seize moments, sometimes inconvenient moments, to challenge that orthodox power and those orthodox opinions.
Don’t for a moment, however, assume that heresy and orthodoxy clash only in religious systems.
Take a look at what is going down between Harry Reid’s powerful Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and South Dakota’s Rick Weiland campaign, and you’ll see the orthodox and the heretics having quite the row.
The DSCC does not like it, not one little bit, that Rick Weiland is the apparent South Dakota Democratic senatorial candidate.
Worse, Rick received full-throated support from former Senator Tom Daschle.
Not only was Weiland’s entry into the race not blessed by the DSCC; they didn’t even know about it. It happened like Archie Bunker baptizing his grandson in secret: the event happened without the powers that be knowing a thing about it.
But it happened.
When the DSCC found out, they weren’t happy--still aren’t.
Anxious orthodox elites have a tendency to deal harshly with heretics and their supporters. Tactics range from intimidation to excommunication to (gulp) more.
But heretics have the audacity (from Latin, meaning “boldness,” or “courage”), like all good underdogs, to trust their instincts and their convictions, and they refuse to be deterred.
The powers that be, be they in the politicos in the DSCC, or be they the pundits in SD, are in fits of anger or of laughter that Rick Weiland would even step up to the plate.
But they ought neither raise their voices too soon in howls nor in chuckles.
Being a Democrat in a traditional Red state already means that we tend anyway to have affinity for the underdogs, and for the heretics.
And, it should be of note, that we have a good record of underdogs who never lose sight of the underdogs: Tom Daschle. Tim Johnson. George McGovern.
South Dakota Democrats have an inherent distrust of orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy says that one can only win in South Dakota if one runs as Republican lite.
That orthodoxy got us Kristi Noem.
Orthodoxy says that with DSCC support, our candidate will win.
That orthodoxy got us Kristi Noem.
Orthodoxy says that South Dakota has been red, is red, and always will be red.
But the heretics know that we can see Minnesota from here.
I like heretics. And I like Rick Weiland.
He’s an underdog.
And he’s interesting.
And you can bet that this race will be too.