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Social conservative: Observes traditional social values. Dedication to family and community. Celebration of country. Responsibility, self-reliance, initiative. The sort of mainstream values sometimes dismissed by the intelligentsia as “Norman Rockwell’s America.”— John Howard, contributing editor, Family Security Matters

Reading one of the state’s daily newspapers recently, I noted that the writer described South Dakota as a “socially conservative” state. Knowing the reporter, I contacted him and asked if he actually thought that the description still applies.

The national media routinely labels this state as “conservative,” primarily because it votes Republican. As with most “red” states, it practices prudent fiscal policies, though even many Republican states aren’t as careful with budgeting as is South Dakota.

“Socially conservative” can be an elephant of a different color.

A conservative on social issues, for example, would be troubled with, or likely oppose, legalized gambling, or the state endorsement of it. A social conservative also would oppose same sex marriage, abortion, legalization of drugs, living together before marriage, and euthanasia.

Some Democrats are social conservatives, and some Republicans are not. Yet these practices are either on the rise or gaining support in South Dakota. In fact, many voters have little problem with them. Which is a key reason why the upcoming vote on the legalization of medical marijuana promises to be so interesting.

The tide of support for legalizing marijuana is rising and threatening to turn into a flood.

The indoor pot farm in Flandreau – some call it a marijuana resort — that has made headlines in our state is only a piece of a much larger picture.  Built on the Santee Sioux tribal land, it separates itself from the potential ballot issue next year to legalize marijuana for medical purposes because smoking can only occur at the resort.

Twenty-three states already have approved medical marijuana, and a number of states even have made it legal for recreational use. The former, medical use, sets the stage for the latter. Oddly, smoking pot for fun is not legal under federal law, but the Department of Justice has ignored the state-by-state infractions.

The endorsement of same sex marriage, gay rights, abortion rights and other encroachments on family values and traditions has been shown to be heavily generational. Younger Americans are influenced less by Christian teachings than are their parents and grandparents. The Internet and generally liberal media also have played a far-reaching role in changing the values of Americans, including South Dakotans.

South Dakota a “socially conservative” state? Actually, not so much. Fiscally conservative? Yes, for now.

Nov. 11, 2015