My Point of View: Noem’s story about shooting dog was an appeal to Trump

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is right. There’s “No Going Back.”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

In her new, very appropriately titled book, Noem described shooting a 14-month-old hunting dog that she was having difficulty training. When her daughter Kennedy (who would have been about 7 at the time) stepped off the school bus that day, she looked around and asked, “Where’s Cricket?”
The internet recoiled in horror.

Email newsletter signup

I grew up on a farm where many pets met untimely deaths (not for misbehavior). I know where Noem is coming from — it’s a place where animals’ utility is valued over affection — but her story hits differently now than it would have a few decades ago.

She was aiming at an audience of one, of course. Unfortunately for her, that audience-of-one can read the room, and the room collectively dug Noem’s political grave the way she dug Cricket’s grave.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the way that right wing Twitter troll “Catturd” was treated last month when he accidentally ran over one of his dogs with his truck. He was beside himself with grief, and he received an outpouring of sympathy and support, including from people who disagree with him vehemently on politics. (Yes, there were internet trolls who mocked him for it, and they are truly broken people.)

Almost nothing else brings people together like affection for dogs and cats. People came together earlier this month to organize, donate to and shop at a garage sale that raised more than $6500 for the local Humane Society.

So, why did Noem think that sharing this “politically incorrect” story about killing an adolescent dog was a smart move?

First, it should be obvious by now that “politically incorrect” is another way to say insensitive, merciless or unempathetic. For example, it was also “politically incorrect” for some people to make fun of Catturd when he accidentally crushed his dog Smiles. They don’t deserve anything but criticism for kicking someone in agony. Neither does Noem deserve any credit for her actions. She could have spent some energy finding a new home for the large puppy whose behavior was consistent with its breed profile instead of taking it to a gravel pit.

Why signal that she can be merciless and insensitive? Because Noem knows that is exactly what Donald Trump is looking for in his vice presidential pick.

Mike Pence made Trump very angry when he chose to serve the constitutional order rather than participating in Trump’s coup strategy on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

Pence did have the courage to do what he was constitutionally obligated to do, which was certify Joe Biden’s win at a joint session of Congress, even though a crowd of Trump supporters was menacingly chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and had erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds.

Kristi Noem’s story is her way of telling Trump that she would do his dirty work without flinching. Unlike Pence, she would serve Trump instead of the Constitution.

Why signal her ability to be merciless with a story about a dog specifically? Because Trump has an extremely low opinion of dogs.
Trump was the first president in over a hundred years not to have a pet dog at the White House. Comparing people to dogs is one of Trump’s favorite ways to dehumanize them.

For example, in Trump’s words, Mitt Romney “choked like a dog,” General Stanley McChrystal was fired “like a dog,” Ted Cruz “lies like a dog,” Brent Bozell was “begging for money like a dog,” Steve Bannon was “dumped like a dog,” Paul Ryan was “out there dying like a dog,” and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “died like a dog.”

Trump sometimes calls women dogs. Of Omarosa Manigault he said, “Good work by [White House Chief of Staff John] Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

Trump said he attacked Arianna Huffington’s appearance shortly after he announced his candidacy in 2015 “because she is a dog who wrongfully comments on me.”

Get the picture? Trump uses comparisons to dogs as an insult because he hates dogs.

Dehumanization like that is a fascist style of politics. Even if people don’t want to acknowledge the fascist element, they may recognize that having a terrible opinion of man’s best friend is a sign of damaged character.

Noem, like many people who appealed to Trump’s indecency, has abruptly found herself in a gravel pit of public opinion.

There’s “no going back.” It’s too late for Noem to give Cricket a different outcome or just keep Cricket’s execution to herself, but maybe this incident will help voters clearly see that Trump is a terrible person, a terrible choice for president, and we can only move forward to a better, kinder future without him.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.