With longtime Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota not seeking re-election, the race for his open U.S. Senate seat is wide open. Republican nominee and former governor Mike Rounds currently leads the polls over his three opponents: Democrat Rick Weiland, Independent Gordon Howie, and Independent Larry Pressler. Pressler, 72, represented South Dakota in the Senate as a Republican from 1979 to 1997. He is hoping to revive his political career after a long absence from public office. In a recent SurveyUSA poll, Pressler jumped to second place in the race, just three points behind Rounds. With Weiland not included in the poll, Pressler leads Rounds 54 percent to 39 percent. However, despite Pressler’s momentum and apparent independent/outsider perspective, he evades citizen journalists like myself, acting more like an establishment duopoly candidate than a genuine independent.
Back in January of this year, when Pressler’s campaign first started, I contacted him via e-mail for a joint Wikinews/Independent Political Report interview as I had done recently with leading independent/third party candidates such as 2013 Virginia Libertarian Party gubernatorial nominee Robert Sarvis and 2014 California Peace & Freedom Party gubernatorial nominee Cindy Sheehan. Pressler expressed interest in doing an interview and asked that I send in my questions so that he could answer them. To help voters in determining whether Pressler is the honest independent he claims, I sent the following questions to him:
1. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, you cited Democrat Barack Obama’s promise to decrease troop levels abroad and his past opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act as reasons for supporting him against his Republican opponents. In these elections, did you consider backing any of Obama’s independent or third party opponents, who frequently discussed decreasing troop levels and repealing the USA PATRIOT Act?
2. Have you ever supported an independent or third party candidate for political office?
3. How would you rate Tim Johnson’s performance as Senator for South Dakota? What would you have done differently than him?
4. What are your thoughts on South Dakota’s other senator, John Thune?
5. Which current or historic U.S. Senator do you most admire?
6. What did you learn from your previous political campaigns that will assist you in this campaign?
7. If elected, will you caucus with one of the major parties as independent Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King currently do?
8. What are your thoughts on Senator Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster of John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA chief last year? What about Senator Ted Cruz’s 21 hour Senate floor speech in protest of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?
9. In your opinion, was it appropriate for the Senate to reduce the amount of support necessary to invoke cloture?
10. If you ever found yourself in disagreement with the perceived policy desires of your South Dakota constituents, how will you weigh their views against your own when voting on legislation?
In response, Pressler wrote, “I am on the road in South Dakota and just do not have time to respond to all of your questions.” He then provided a canned response discussing things I did not even ask about:
As a Fulbright Professor abroad, I witnessed firsthand the need to relocate many of our military bases that are overseas back to the United States and modernize our entire military-diplomatic efforts abroad. As a two-term Vietnam combat veteran, I feel that my time in Vietnam was largely wasted. Our country’s blood and treasure was lost. The same thing is true of most of our foreign interventions. Sometimes they may be necessary, but in general I would try to cut military spending overseas substantially and use the money here for senior citizens, education, roads, and other necessities we need here in the United States. And most importantly, I am a deficit hawk, a member of the Fix the Debt group, and my approach is to reduce foreign military expenditures and thus reduce our dangerous debt.
After receiving this, I informed Pressler that I had no deadline on the story and so could await his response as long as he needed. He gave no response.
Weeks later, I asked for confirmation that he did plan to answer the questions eventually. Again, I received no response.
As actual members of the public, citizen journalists are adept at asking the questions the public wants to know. I am confident South Dakotans want to know the answers to at least some of the ten questions listed above. By answering none of the questions, Pressler is following the path of duopoly candidates who avoid independent media. That, along with his two endorsements of Barack Obama for president, support for gun control, and support for Obamacare, lead me to suspect that he, like fellow so-called independent Senate candidate Greg Orman of Kansas, is just another duopoly candidate masquerading as an independent.
If elected, I do not believe Pressler will be an independent voice. I believe he will be dependent; dependent on the direction of the Obama White House and dependent on the Democratic Party, with whom he will likely caucus. Though Rounds and Weiland will too caucus with their respective duopoly parties if elected, at least they are honest about it in this campaign.