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Governor Noem’s transgender bill reversal may be politically harmful

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Governor Kristi Noem is receiving national attention for her decision to backtrack on H.B. 1217, the bill that would have banned transgender women from competing on student sports teams that match their gender identity.

Many in the Republican party are criticizing this change in tone as a concession to the NCAA.

John Dreyer, an associate professor of political science at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, said that it’s likely that Noem’s decision was based on not wanting any litigation associated with the bill, but it may also be an indication of her future plans.

“You have to trace where the money’s going and what the politician wants to do after their term,” Dreyer said. “Does she want to get re-elected? Does she want to go for a national office? So, it’s really up to them and what they feel they need to do to maintain or acquire more popularity.”

Politicians changing their minds on key policy promises is nothing new.

President George H. W. Bush famously promised not to increase taxes in 1988, only to do just that once in office.

Dreyer said that this decision to go against popular public opinion may have resulted in Bush’s re-election loss in 1992.

“Him raising taxes was absolutely devastating to his campaign,” Dreyer said. “and not only that but his endorsement of NAFTA also contributed to his defeat. So, public opinion often does matter, but it’s never a hard and fast rule.”

Dreyer adds that more often than not, there is a political cost to backtracking on policy promises.

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