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Blessed are the Peacemakers

Emotions have been running high across our great country. Both sides, all sides need to take a breath. 


A member of my staff showed me a Facebook squabble taking place within their family - a perfect microcosm of America. A bunch of expletives that can't be stated here hurled back and forth between family members. I wondered if they would have talked to each other like that face-to-face? Probably not.


Social media has impaired our inhibition to the point that the most outrageous thing we could think actually makes its way onto our phone or computer screens. The vilest words, having never even touched our lips, are there for everyone to see forever, even though they're later found embarrassing - even to the typist. We've been threatened, literally, for our opinions and beliefs. These conversations - these fights: would they make our parents or grandparents proud? Would they be the example we want displayed to our kids? Nope. Unfortunately, many of those expletives will follow the posting of this column, as has been the case for the last several months - proving my point.   


It's time to reset. Resetting means understanding that although our differences may be stark, we're all Americans. We gain nothing trying to silence or belittle others for their sincerely-held beliefs. If we truly want to make progress on the important issues before us, we must rid ourselves of the “us vs. them” mentality and tone down inflammatory rhetoric and name calling that sows division. Instead, we must listen, contemplate, attempt to understand, persuade, debate, negotiate and ultimately cooperate.

We're all exhausted by the emotional battle within us, between us and before us. I must admit that emotion has gotten the best of me, too. I’ve been aggravated with how President Trump lashed out at the end of his term and by the attacks on good people like Vice President Mike Pence. I’ve even said some things in the heat of the moment that I would’ve rephrased or withheld altogether.


But at the end of the day, the facts remain. Under no circumstances did Vice President Pence or the Congress have unilateral constitutional authority to "flip" the election. Furthermore, neither of the two objections raised on January 6 provided a single thread of new evidence. And yet, there we were defending the Constitution in the wake of nonstop attacks and false claims. The real irony here is the vast majority of President Trump’s supporters strongly support the Constitution; and yet, many bought into the idea of upending the Constitution because we, myself included, didn't like the results of the election. I can't help but anguish over the idea that the violence we witnessed on that fateful day boiled down to roughly 200 disputed votes in Maricopa County, Arizona, which would not have been nearly enough votes to change the outcome of the election. This is supported by decisions in more than 60 court cases as well as a review by the Department of Justice, President Trump’s own Attorney General and by various state officials after conducting audits.


President Trump's legacy should be that of tax cuts, Supreme Court picks, deregulation, pro-life measures, national security and so many other great policies that unfortunately I fear will be outweighed by his own behavior in the waning days of his term. And, while I understand many of my fellow South Dakotans won't see it that way - that's my opinion. Ultimately though, history - not I - will be the judge.


The question now is: where do we go from here? Personally, I intend to continue in my defense of the Constitution, limited government and a strong national defense. I intend to work with the Democrat-controlled White House, Senate and House on ag policy, transportation and defense, to name a few, because those things shouldn't be partisan in nature. However, I know we’ll have our disagreements. Like many of you, I worry about our constitutional rights such as the right to bear arms, religious freedoms and property rights. I will fight to defend the Constitution and protect these rights which so many of us feel strongly about.


As it pertains to election security and integrity, I believe citizens need their faith in the electoral process restored. There are states whose questionable actions cast doubt on our electoral process. Do we have evidence of widespread voter fraud? No. However, to regain confidence in our elections and provide additional transparency into what really happened during the 2020 general election, we have introduced legislation which establishes a bipartisan advisory committee to make recommendations to state legislatures with improvements to the security, integrity and administration of federal elections. Specifically, the bill would study multiple areas, including election practices adopted in response to COVID-19, practices regarding mail in ballots, absentee ballots, practices that would have allowed improper fraudulent voter registration and how technology played a role in the voting process.


The Constitution mandates that the states, not the federal government, manage elections. For those of us interested in defending the Constitution and states' rights, we need to be cautious as we navigate these questions. We do not want the federal government, and specifically Congress, running states’ elections.


Democrats have spoken about unity during this inaugural week. I’m hopeful that a point of unity will be prioritizing the importance of credibility in the election process and I intend to have conversations with my colleagues to persuade them to consider this.


In the meantime, blessed are the peacemakers as we work to reset.