In the 2016 presidential election, 62.2 percent of South Dakota voters supported Donald Trump even though he never made a campaign stop in the state. Since then, President Trump has held rallies in Fargo, N.D., Duluth, Minn., Great Falls, Mont., and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Today, he will hold one in Billings, Mont.
President Trump has held at least 33 rallies across the nation since he defeated Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton in November 2016. Yet, he has not set foot in this state where he has so many loyal supporters.
That, however, will change Friday but only for those invited to attend an exclusive fundraising event at a location yet to be disclosed to the public. Only when invitees agree to pay $500 to attend or $5,000 to go and get their picture taken with Trump will they learn the location. Once there and illuminated by the glitter of the political gala, they can donate thousands more to four political action committees working to help Republican Rep. Kristi Noem defeat Democrat Billie Sutton in the race for governor. In the end, an individual will have the opportunity to donate as much as $23,000 on Friday.
While only a select few know how many invitations have been sent for Trump’s first visit to South Dakota, it is a safe bet that most of the 227,721 who voted for him are not on the list, which certainly includes many West River residents.
The reality, however, is that even if they did receive an invitation how many working-class South Dakotans with children or who work at two or three jobs can afford to spend $1,000 per couple just to get in the door? These priced-out supporters shouldn’t expect much coverage of the event either. The White House told the Journal that the only time the president will be available for media coverage is when he departs Air Force One at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls. That’s also where non-invitees — the majority of state residents — will have their chance for a glimpse of the nation’s 45th president.
That is, unless, the president changes his mind and holds a rally at a large venue and announces it soon.
Trump’s decision to make his first trip here to help harvest a cash crop sets him apart from other presidents, who visited for different reasons. President Obama was here in 2015, George W. Bush visited four times, Bill Clinton three times, George H. Bush three times, Ronald Reagan two times and then there was Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, Coolidge, Wilson, Taft, McKinley, and Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.
Perhaps, however, this fundraising event is just a sign of the times. It's money that politicians seem to covet above all else. In just a few hours, Rep. Noem will likely rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from party insiders and representatives of special interests. At the same time, the public will be shut out. The entire event smacks of the elitism that Trump and Noem point to when criticizing the status quo in Washington, D.C.
But even though money is the jet fuel of political campaigns, it is difficult to understand why President Trump has yet to make time for his grassroots supporters in South Dakota.
Since there is still time, we urge the president to open his arms to all South Dakotans — not just those with deep pockets.