Donald Trump loyalists in South Dakota turn on home state Senator

John Thune
It's not just Trump critics who are leaving the party, loyalists are sending a message.

Longtime South Dakota Republican voter Jim Thompson is ready to leave the GOP, hoping that an exodus of Donald Trump supporters like him will punish the state’s preeminent politician, Sen. John Thune, for defying Trump.

Thompson, a retired rodeo announcer and broadcaster, watched Trump’s calls for supporters to come to Washington to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory and he saw the ensuing assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 . But as Congress tries to hold Trump accountable for his actions, Thompson sees an agenda to banish the former president from politics and return the party to establishment figures such as Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader in the Senate.

“We were tired of the way things were going, we were tired of political answers and spin,” Thompson said.

Thune was among the Republicans who condemned the insurrection at the Capitol, calling it “horrific” and pledging to “hold those responsible to account.” But like most of his GOP colleagues, the senator this past week signaled he was not speaking about Trump.

“We were tired of the way things were going, we were tired of political answers and spin,” Thompson said.

Thune was among the Republicans who condemned the insurrection at the Capitol, calling it “horrific” and pledging to “hold those responsible to account.” But like most of his GOP colleagues, the senator this past week signaled he was not speaking about Trump.

“I think the whole impeachment thing is a joke,” said David Buchanan, the president of a small Bible school in South Dakota who proudly displayed a Trump flag over his home. “They’re trying just to destroy President Trump. They see him as a threat.”

Buchanan is among those who would like to hear Republicans undertake a more robust defense of Trump. Instead, most have argued that an impeachment trial is unconstitutional, not that Trump is blameless for the riot.

Buchanan said he was frustrated to hear Thune on the radio countering Trump’s allegations of widespread election fraud.

“What we’re seeing is the destruction of the United States of America as it was founded,” he said.

Embedded in these views is a deep skepticism about the mainstream media coverage and a belief in an alternative narrative — by now a defining characteristic of Trump’s most ardent backers, even those who once trusted the news.

Brie Korkow, a 37-year-old from Pierre who runs a family rodeo business, used to love to research political issues while on a debate team in college. But recently, she has given up hope of trusting national media outlets and struggles to know what to believe. She trusts her local newspaper, but feels that even fact checks from national outlets are no longer reliable.

“It goes back to being able to find the truth about something,” she said. “With social media, it’s almost impossible.”

Although uncertain about what really happened at the Capitol, Korkow does believe Trump’s election claims helped unleash the insurrection. But, echoing Republican senators, she believes an impeachment trial will only be more divisive. She hopes the Senate will “just let bygones be bygones.”

Besides, by the end of Trump’s four years in office, Korkow says she was no longer shocked by Trump.

But Republican lawmakers can still feel his pointed jabs. When Thune disputed the baseless allegations of election fraud, Trump declared the Senator’s “political career over” and suggested GOP Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump fan favorite, make a primary challenge in 2022. She quickly bowed out from challenging Thune next year.

Still, talk of a primary has not died.

A private Facebook group called “Primary John Thune in 2022” has attracted over 3,000 members. One of them, Bruce W. Whalen, said Thune’s refusal to support Trump’s claims of fraud has fueled interest.

“We can’t understand as South Dakotans why Thune, (Sen. Mike) Rounds and (Rep. Dusty) Johnson can’t see what we see,” he said.

Whalen had contemplated traveling to Washington for Trump’s protest, convinced that Thune, whom he called a “never-Trumper,” was letting the election be stolen. As Whalen watched on television as a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, he remembers almost instantly being convinced they were actually antifa activists. Antifa is shorthand for anti-fascists and is a broad description for the far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.

Whalen, who in 2006 had enough GOP support to represent the party in a statewide race for Congress, now sees Trump’s impeachment trial as “lofty accusations that they are trying to slime him with.”

In the meantime, some longtime state Republican figures are frustrated with their senator’s hesitation to convict Trump.

“He deserves to be convicted,” said David Volk, a former state treasurer.

Volk has observed a steady rightward lurch in Republican politics over the years that has culminated in widespread support for Trump. Though he believes that Thune won’t face much much trouble being reelected, Volk feels Noem has ensured that Trump’s brand of politics lives on in the state.

“There’s a lot of people who would like to see this go away, Trump go away,” he said. “But there’s no way they’re going to get him to go away.”

Others, like Tom Barnett, a former director of the state’s bar association, have given up on the Republican Party. Last year he changed his party affiliation after 50 years with the GOP, saying he could no longer support officials who would not stand up to Trump.

He said Trump “not only stole the party, he ruined the party.”

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Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Associated Press


2 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    January 31, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    The battle for the truth ! Goptrump death cult sociopaths do not believe in truth ! Thune thank you for believing the common truth of America! No one believes Trump! All of his lawyers have quit! Why? Because Trump wants to lie about the election! 60 courts all over America have ruled no evidence ! The election Stands! Trump shall be found guilty of treason !

  • John McMahon

    February 1, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Now we see every angry Marxist trained activist masquerading as a real but (FAKE NEWS) journalist, like the idiot who wrote this story, are spewing the party line no different than the RUSSIA HOAX they have been spewing for years now! President Donald Trump NEVER called for violence. President TRUMP won the election by a landslide which caused the Democrat party to panic and halt the count,cover up the windows, kick out the Republican observers then illegally dump thousands of BIDEN ONLY ballots into the election Coup, even from neighboring states. The weak Federal and cowardly State Judges are terrified to see the massive direct evidence and Sworn Affidavits under oath, from actual former Federal Prosecutors, so naturally the cases are NOT even allowed in court . However, some are getting thru! Uh oh! So loyal Americans including thousands of loyal Democrats with an IQ over 75 , recognized the latest impeachment hoax as the last phase of the attempted Trump Administration COUP by low corrupted scum , who have ZERO evidence Trump ever encouraged any violence against the U.S.Capitol period. Nancy Pelosi you F… Up because even the FBI stated they knew of the plan to enter the Capitol building by Antifa and other bad actors weeks BEFORE the mostly peaceful protest. Nancy get with Hillary Clinton, your hero , she will teach you morons how to buy another fake Russian Dossier to frame an innocent American President like she tried to do! Your just making him stronger! Thank you!!!!!!!!

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