“What I learned from my years of public service … is people are looking for leaders who are authentic, willing to learn from the past, and don’t shy away from tough challenges.” 

—South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem 

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” 

—Niccolò Machiavelli 

Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem may or may not have made a mistake when she killed her failed hunting dog, Cricket, but Noem definitely made a mistake telling the political world about it.  

The last thing the vulgar crowd wants to see is some vulgar truth made plain.  

Noem should have known that authenticity in politics is akin to painting one’s face with make-up. The public doesn’t want to see what you literally look like sans blush, eyeliner, base, and mascara. They want you to keep up appearances. They want you to lie to them in an acceptable and believable way. They want you to doll-up the naked truth – the uglier and bloodier that truth is, the more fraudulently it must be presented. 

In fairness, I can see the self-portrait Noem was trying to create: an independent, self-reliant frontier woman who can make the tough choices fated necessity demands. Though the ability to make painful decisions may be an admirable quality for a political leader, being shockingly honest about it is to commit political suicide in America. Noem is the 2024 political cycle’s Kurt Cobain. Her hopes of being Donald Trump’s VP pick are now shot through, plastered on social media for all to behold. 

The political hit ads against Noem write themselves, especially for anyone who remembers the famous 1973 National Lampoon magazine cover showing an adorable dog with a gun pointed to his head with the caption, "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog." 

Alabama political news cheeseface Alabama News

In a cruel twist of ironic fate, the dog held hostage in the image, Mr. Cheeseface, was tragically shot on his owner’s Vermont farm by an unidentified hunter in 1976. The hunter shot dogs all season for allegedly chasing deer.  

America of the 1970s was certainly a different country.  

Regardless, Mr. Cheeseface didn’t kill himself, nor did Cricket. But Noem put down her own political career by telling the truth about her steely resolve to pull the trigger. 

Truth is, Americans are all for violence – not against chicken-killing puppies, but against other human beings. As long as it’s dolled up, Americans understand that sometimes fated necessity demands we kill people and blow stuff up while lying about it – or at least help others kill people and blow stuff up while lying about it.  

As history shows, man is the ultimate predator to man, so we must defend ourselves by projecting our ideals abroad by force. Republics must occasionally act like they are run by beastly dictators, forever expanding in the name of defense. Better to be predator than prey. And beyond questions of war, some Americans believe that necessity can demand doctors must kill a child in their mother’s womb or, God forbid, assist some poor soul in suicide.  

However, one must remember to talk about all this killing in a certain tone of voice – a tone I refuse to use in this essay – else the public gets squeamish, disgusted, and deeply offended. 

The umbrella of “healthcare” provides plenty of palliative euphemisms for domestic killing, while foreign killing has many “spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down” – from appeals for “keeping the world safe for democracy,” to the coldly clinical term “collateral damage,” to geostrategic concerns over hegemony, to the more philosophical musings that some awful decisions are simply inevitable. 

Yet, more than advocating killing, the vulgar political class loves to accuse people of killing. American politics is often a parade of hostage-taking more outrageous than Mr. Cheeseface with a gun to his head on National Lampoon.  

Cut this budget proposal? People will die! Vote against my Climate Change plan? People will die! Vote against my healthcare bill? People will die! Vote against gun control? People will die! Vote against supplemental funding to Ukraine? People will die, you dirty Putin stooge! 

Other than hyperbolic accusations of death, the hostage-taking continues. For instance, most Americans seem to hate the prospect of a Trump vs. Biden rematch, yet most will be forced to express support for one of the two as a hostage would on video. I suspect most Americans would rather leave one another alone, but those political few who are inclined to dominate their fellow man will not allow it. You must vote for some master, or people will die! 

“The necessity of fraud, one can see, is contained in Machiavelli's description of the two humors in all states, one desiring to dominate and the other not to be dominated,” writes Harvey Mansfield in his introduction to Niccolò Machiavelli’s “Discourses on Livy.” “Since government is domination, those who do not desire it must necessarily be fooled into accepting it—which is fraud. Election is one principal method: while the people are choosing who is to govern them, they forget their desire not to be governed at all; for injuries one chooses for oneself hurt less than those imposed by someone else.” 

I wonder if Noem would agree that the fatal injury she has now given herself by admitting to the killing of Cricket was better than any imposed by someone else.  

Either way, I hope Cricket is chirping a last laugh in doggy heaven – though his death, like so many other deaths we doll up to maintain our public appearances, was unnecessary.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.