PIERRE, S.D. — In 1972, after losing all but Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts, Sen. George McGovern sat on a hotel bed in downtown Sioux Falls and penned his presidential campaign's eulogy.
"The Presidency belongs to someone else, but the glory of those devoted working friends and their dedication to the noble ideas of this country sustain us now and it will sustain our country," McGovern said that night.
It was an optimistic, if sobering note to supporters from the Democratic South Dakota senator.
The man coming to McGovern's hometown next week, though, doesn't see the parallels.
"What does George McGovern have to do with Trump?" asked Mike Lindell, in a phone call on Wednesday, May 5, with Forum News Service. "McGovern lost. Trump won. He'll be back by August."
On Monday, May 10, Lindell, the CEO of a pillow company in neighboring Minnesota, will come to to Mitchell's city-owned Corn Palace, which seats 3,000 persons, to ostensibly unveil his social media platform, "Frank," which promises free speech but bans slurs against Black Americans and women, the "f" word and taking the Lord's name in vain.
If recent history holds true, Lindell's event will also function as a rally for a range of debunked schemes involving voting machines, Chinese clandestine politicos and attempts to overturn last fall's presidential election.
Mitchell's most famous political son, McGovern, who taught at the local private, Christian college and returned to live after coming home from Washington, D.C., until his death in 2012, would hate to see the attacks against democratic institutions, said the professor who now runs the center named in McGovern's honor.
"McGovern knew what it was like to take a hard defeat," said Joel Allen, a professor of religion at the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University. "And it takes character to do that. It takes character to say, 'we were defeated, and we have to learn from it.'"
"We're losing that," added Allen, "And I think he (McGovern) would be very concerned about that fact."
That the Corn Palace in 2021, a venue famous for appearances by squeeze-boxer Myron Floren and comedic duo Williams & Ree, might play host to a conspiracy-theory-laden contrarian doesn't necessarily sit wrongly with the city's current political son. Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson says he believes strongly in unrestrained speech.
In a statement emailed through his spokeswoman, Johnson told FNS that while he didn't "agree with many of his (Lindell's) debunked claims" regarding a stolen 2020 election, "cancel culture is just as dangerous," as any false election claims promulgated by the Minnesota businessman.
"We shouldn't stop him (Lindell) from coming to South Dakota just because his views are different than mine or yours," said Johnson.
Even among Trump's ardent supporters, Lindell has been especially held out for criticism on mainstream — and even right-wing — media. Save an appearance on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! late-night show last week, during which, according to Lindell, the popular television host commiserated with him over "cancel culture" regarding recent public criticism Kimmel took over wearing blackface in the 1990s, Lindell's had a bumpy 2021. He's been booted from Twitter in January. A Newsmax anchor walked off set with Lindell in early February. And just Wednesday, video host VIMEO deleted Lindell's content.
Dominion Voting Systems has also sued him in federal court in D.C. for $1.3 billion, claiming Lindell defamed the company and exposed them "to the most extreme hatred and contempt" for his unproven accusations of ballot manipulation.
It's not clear whether any politicians will attend Monday's rally. Lindell told FNS that Gov. Kristi Noem is a "good friend of mine," but had a "prior engagement." Mitchell's state senator, Joshua Klumb, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Rep. Lance Koth, a Mitchell Republican, did briefly speak on the phone, only to say he had little to say about the event.
Pressed if he believed in Lindell's central tenet — that President Biden did not truthfully win the November 2020 presidential election — Koth said he hadn't "spent a lot of time in researching or even talking about any of the theories that are going out and about."
"I have no comment on those types of questions," Koth said, when asked if he thought Biden won in November.
The Corn Palace is owned by the City of Mitchell, and plays host to a range of events, including basketball games and a concert series in late August. Doug Greenway, director of the Corn Palace, said staff rented out the venue to an associate of Lindell's at the regular price of $1,750 plus fees.
While Lindell has a history of perpetuating some claims shared by those rioters who burst into the U.S. Capitol on the January 6 insurrection, Greenway said the "opinions of the programs" at the city-owned event space "are not a great concern to the Corn Palace and are not always representative of the Corn Palace."
"The Corn Palace is an attraction and event center," wrote Greenway, in an email. "Our position is to support events that bring visitors and/or additional events to our city."
Concerns run rife, particularly through right-leaning political circles in the state, that there is an entrenched progressive culture, especially on university campuses, to purge unwanted ideas, words, or even books from the public arena. Last month at a Board of Regents budget-cutting task force, one Republican legislator alluded to a "storm" on the horizon over university diversity offices, which he later told FNS were widely viewed among lawmakers as intolerant toward white people, Christians, and conservatives.
But there are rising anxieties about misinformation, too. A recent CNN poll found that 70% of Republican voters do not believe Joe Biden won more votes than Trump in the November election. This week, Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney is on the precipice of losing her GOP leadership position after repeatedly faulting Trump for the January 6th attacks.
It's a political quagmire that worries many, including Allen from his seat in Mitchell.
"McGovern, I think, would be very disturbed by the way in which a lot of folks are supporting what ends up being the perpetuation of deception on the American public," commented Allen.
But many don't hold a pessimistic view of the view by Lindell, who told FNS officials had heard "record" response for Monday's event.
State legislator Rep. Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen, told FNS that he welcomed Lindell's visit to South Dakota, even though he won't be attending. He says he questions some election results, but is fine acknowledging who the president is.
"When we reached the point that we say, 'This is the president,' then this is the president,'" said Perry. "Joe Biden is our president period.'"
But Perry added, "I'm glad he's (Lindell's) coming. I think it's a good exercise in free speech."