OPINION — The Internet is abuzz with the expensive ad that former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has produced and broadcast last week in Game 1 of the World Series, the Country Music Awards and Sunday in NFL football games. The ad is narrated by actor Sam Elliott who has one of the most recognizable and appealing voices anywhere.

It’s a good ad, about unifying America and making reference to the fact that there are no Republican rivers or Democrat mountains (or something like that.) The choice of Elliott is brilliant because many people might be convinced that Elliott is a die-hard conservative because of some of the roles he’s played. But if you believe the polls, (and you shouldn’t) an ad buy this expensive was likely unnecessary for Biden.

Both President Donald Trump and Biden will be saturating the airwaves with advertising in the next several days as we close in on the hopefully merciful end of this most horrible of national political seasons.

In South Dakota, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, (Constitutional Amendment B) if passed, would legalize sports betting in Deadwood and on Indian reservations in the state. It is confusing for many why Deadwood would have a lock on all things gaming in our state.

If it is determined that sports betting is not all that sinful, why must Sioux Falls, Pierre and Chamberlain taxpayers give their money to Deadwood and not to their own communities when they’re betting on an NBA game? Unlike casino betting, nobody is coming to Deadwood to bet on the Packers. Sports betting South Dakota residents already have bookmakers and South Dakota has been slow to enforce laws prohibiting the practice. Where’s the benefit?

Marijuana is back on the ballot. Initiated Measure 26 provides for a medical marijuana program in South Dakota. And Constitutional Amendment A would, if passed, legalize recreational marijuana. This requires the legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

Marijuana laws in South Dakota are long past due for reform. The father of modern American conservative thought, William F. Buckley, Jr. declared in the magazine he founded, The National Review, that the war on drugs dead – in 1996. “It is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial and penal procedures associated with police states.”

Mr. Buckley was correct back in 1996. The cost of the drug war is many times more painful, in all its manifestations, than would be the licensing of drugs combined with intensive education of nonusers and intensive education designed to warn those who experiment with drugs,” he said. He is correct today.

Back on the advertising front, I thought it was interesting that both incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Rounds and his Democratic opponent Dan Ahlers are advertising on local television and radio stations in the state. This should surprise nobody. What is a surprise is that none of the ads I’ve seen and heard identify either with the political party they represent. Ahlers’ campaign sent someone in my home (a Republican) a postcard that but for the lack of a patriotic red white and blue color palate, could have come from a variety of South Dakota Republicans.

No place on the post card or in his ads does Ahlers say he is the Democratic nominee for the Senate. I did not hear or see Rounds declare himself to be a Republican in his ads. I did check both candidates’ websites. Rounds tells us he’s a Republican on his “About Mike” page. But I could neither find the word Democrat or Democratic on Ahlers site.

The decision to not identify with his political party and Rounds’ decision to barely do so is a sad commentary on South Dakota politics. If one is not proud of your party and it’s platform, why run? It is often said that in today’s climate, a Democrat can’t win in South Dakota. But how do they expect to if they aren’t proud enough of their platform to embrace it?

South Dakota has a decent history of Democrats who have held national office. George McGovern, Tom Daschle, Tim Johnson and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin come to mind. Certainly Sen. Rounds’ record is not so sterling that it could not be challenged by someone who is proud of a platform they think is better. Mr. Ahlers might make an excellent statesman someday – but not if he won’t tell people the party with which he is aligned.

Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.

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