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Name-calling – the use of abusive names to belittle or humiliate another person in a political campaign or argument. –

In our language’s impressively large collection of insulting words, where does “pond scum” rank, exactly?

Is it above “cur” or “malcontent”?  Would it be below “liar” or “deviant”?

Certainly it would be on a par with “chicken,” another term employed by state Rep. Lee Schoenbeck to describe House Republican Leader Brian Gosch, of Rapid City. For a moment, it sounded like Donald Trump talking. Trump recently called his GOP primary opponent Ted Cruz “dishonest” and “unstable” before declaring, “He’s nuts.”

I was shocked at Schoenbeck, a Watertown lawyer and experienced Republican lawmaker. Though he is in his first term in the House since his election in 2014, he previously served two terms in the Senate, is adept at conflict resolution and is seen even by his adversaries as highly capable.

The language was a frontal attack not only on Gosch, but on the Legislature’s Rules of Conduct. It was conduct unbecoming of a legislator, and totally unexpected. Even more surprising was his threat to resign his seat, which he on Friday recanted.

When the infighting becomes this heated among Republicans, does it reveal the depth of differences inside the GOP tent or simply healthy egos at work?

It was expected that Gosch, and some other conservatives in the House, would oppose the governor’s tax increase. What was somewhat surprising is that opponents to Gov. Daugaard’s measures did not offer specific alternative legislation to raise the dollars needed for teacher pay.

This public and contentious split among GOP lawmakers in Pierre has been brewing for awhile and noticeable fissures were seen over earlier funding fights related to road and bridge appropriations.  For conservative Republicans, few issues can bring a pot to boil faster than the thought of raising taxes.

In recent years, I can recall only one other example that was this egregious, and it occurred on the floor of the House. After Roger Hunt of Brandon concluded his explanation of a bill that he had sponsored, Ed Iron Cloud of Porcupine stood and called him a “liar.” It was a stunning moment, and out of character for House decorum.

Name-calling is unacceptable. Though the language used last week was not on the floor of the House, it was just as troubling. It undermined a civility needed today — more than ever — in the political process. South Dakota does not need to emulate the national political scene.

March 2, 2016