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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 wordhairesis,’ 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.  

Originally posted to Anna M. Madsen on Thu May 23, 2013 at 12:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The degree of anger and the effort (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike Chapman, ichibon, Trevin

    made so early in the election cycle to discredit Weiland is stunning. If he truly was an unelectable candidate, I would think the response would be similar to that when Thune ran unopposed for his Senate seat -to just shrug and move on - red state win is hopeless, nothing new to see here. That isn't what's happening. And yes - being independent of DC insiders is not a bad thing for a SD candidate.

    Weiland is in and it will be a race to watch. And a race to support.

    Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

    by meralda on Thu May 23, 2013 at 01:51:40 PM PDT

  •  And just think how postively this might play here: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon, psnyder, mungley, Trevin

    "Meet Rick Weiland: the Democrat Harry Reid doesn't want in the U.S. Senate."

    Let's see the Rs campaign against cardboard cutouts of Reid and Pelosi with that on the table.

    "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --MLK

    by Progressive Witness on Thu May 23, 2013 at 01:55:57 PM PDT

    •  Well if that's the case, Harry Reid is a chicken (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Simple as that.  We need more real Democrats.  Reid not wanting Weiland in the Senate is basically code for Harry Reid not being a real Democrat himself and stop being so careful in trying to compromise with the Republicans.  I know Reid is a Mormon but he's got to even learn from Tom Udall, who is more of a Democrat than Reid is.

      Now I have relatives who are pro-union and living in Las Vegas.  They can tell you Harry Reid is not well liked in Nevada.  He's more unpopular than people think.

      Therefore, primarying Reid should happen.  But of course, he's not up for re-election until 2016.  Damn!

  •  You are so right! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anna and Meralda, you are both so right. If Rick Weiland wasn't electable the National Republican Senatorial Committee wouldn't be spending so much time and effort to discredit him. Their actions are pretty good evidence that they know they have a mess on their hands on the Republican side of the race. Mike Rounds is a weak representative of the Pierre establishment and will get "primaried" from the right without any doubt.

    It's unfortunate that the DSCC has mishandled this race so badly up to this point but there is still plenty of time to recover from all of that and win. Besides, having the line out there that Rick Weiland isn't Harry Reid's choice works pretty well with independents.

  •  I'm still mad at the DSCC (0+ / 0-)

    for throwing money at the primary in 2008.  

    I like the job Merkley is doing as Senator - but Steve Novick should have had a fair chance in the primary.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Thu May 23, 2013 at 03:51:01 PM PDT

  •  This is all very interesting. (0+ / 0-)

    But do you have any reason to support Rick, OTHER than a desire to stick a finger in Harry Reid's eye?  Not that I don't think Reid deserves it.

  •  Are there any polls (0+ / 0-)

    showing which Democrat would do best in the fall against the likely Republican'ts nominee (former Gov. Mike Rounds)?

    There sure seems to be a lot of gnashing of teeth, with the national party trying to recruit the person they think would be strongest vs. others who think Weiland would.

    •  Don't assume Mike Rounds (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wdrath, RamblinDave

      will be the Republican nominee. The same groups that engineered the defeats of Charlie Crist in Florida and David Dewurst in Texas have made it clear they're going to find a challenger to Rounds. Florida and Texas are really expensive compared to South Dakota, so they can practically create the candidate of their dreams between now and a year from now when the primary elections are held.

  •  Weiland has as a good a chance as any Dem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SD Goat

    I'm just thrilled to not have a Blue Dog in the race. Phtooi, Herseth.

  •  Before we get too sentimental about (0+ / 0-)

    heresy for heresy's sake, let's remember that climate change denialists and teabag nut cases like to pose as heretics.

    The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

    by psnyder on Thu May 23, 2013 at 06:28:41 PM PDT

    •  That is a brilliant comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      psnyder, nogo postal, OleHippieChick

      and I thank you for it.

      In this piece, I'm raising my glass to two things: heretics (like Rick) who check hubris; and heretics (like Rick) who check power.

      In the instances you raise, both those who deny climate change and those who espouse Tea Party Principles have  hubris and power.  

      In large part, my piece is born out of my experience as a female (and feminist) theologian.  

      Those who write history of the past and therefore of the future tend to be those who have power.  

      Heretics raise pesky questions to those who have and enjoy power.

      Sometimes they do it by simply asking, "Why?" or "Are you sure?" or "On what basis do you know that?"

      Big oil, big business, whites, and men have power, precisely the very things that climate change deniers and the Tea Party want to preserve.

      One could argue that on paper, Rick doesn't have a chance.  He doesn't (yet) have DSCC support, he doesn't (yet) have a war chest of funds, he doesn't (yet) have name recognition, and he's a Democrat in a Red state.

      That's convenient for those who might (otherwise) have DSCC support, and a war chest, and name recognition, and be quasi-Republicans.

      But the heretics of whom I am speaking are less interested in what is on paper, and more interested in what is in the air, and of what is -also- true.  

      Perhaps even true-er.  

  •  Who and what the hell is Harry Reid? (0+ / 0-)

    Isn't he the yaahoo that put the skids to fillibuster reform?  Damn right he is.  Rick Weiland should worry about Harry as much as a cloudy day.

  •  I hate to say it, but this diary puts me in mind (0+ / 0-)

    of nothing so much as Newt Gingrich's press release. You all know the one.

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by Ponder Stibbons on Fri May 24, 2013 at 11:46:32 AM PDT

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