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The Dakota Effect


Garry  Young  a1 and Lee  Sigelman  a1
a1 The George Washington University

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If challenged to do so, relatively few Americans could probably find North and South Dakota on a map, let alone correctly name, spell, and pronounce the capitals of the two states. Nor would they be able to recall anything interesting about the Dakotas, whose main tourist attractions, besides Mount Rushmore, are a drug store, a civic arena festooned in corn, and a peace garden. Although one of the Dakotas bills itself as “The Land of Infinite Variety,” its sociocultural diversity consists primarily of different synods of Lutherans who engage in endless disputation with one another because they are so similar. Dakotans prefer their food bland—they consider ketchup daringly spicy—and their politicians low-key. When they encounter something new, they call it “different,” which they rarely mean as a compliment, and they wait for it to go away—which, because there is so little to hold it in the Dakotas, it probably will do. They keep their opinions to themselves (a typical Dakotan being the fellow from Sioux Falls who loved his wife so much that he almost told her), and they do not like it when people make a fuss about themselves or anything else. Thus, when South Dakotans perceived the previously popular Senator George McGovern as having gotten too big for his britches by seeking the presidency in 1972, they saw to it that he would fail to carry his home state, and three decades later they voted long-time Senator Tom Daschle out of office as soon as he repeated McGovern's mistake of seeing a president whenever he gazed into a mirror.



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