N.D.’s ever-changing political dynamicAs the close race for the presidency shows, the United States retains something like a 50/50 split. In fact, taken as a whole, Election Day’s results in Washington seem to signal “status quo” rather than “change.” Not so in North Dakota, where a more basic evolution in the state’s political culture may be under way.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
As the close race for the presidency shows, the United States retains something like a 50/50 split. In fact, taken as a whole, Election Day’s results in Washington seem to signal “status quo” rather than “change.”
Not so in North Dakota, where a more basic evolution in the state’s political culture may be under way.
The Herald received hundreds of letters on politics over the past few weeks. Here’s an excerpt from one that captures some of North Dakota’s evolving dynamic.
“I would be considered a North Dakota conservative,” writes Thomas Herzog of Fargo.
“However, that has not always dictated how I vote.
“In past years, I did cast ballots for Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan and Earl Pomeroy. At the time, I felt they were the better candidates; and at the time, our state needed their support in Washington.”
We interrupt the letter to take note: That’s important. Voters such as Herzog — conservative, but reliably pulling the lever for Conrad, Dorgan and Pomeroy — were the bane of North Dakota’s Republican candidates for Congress.
And when he admits that North Dakota needed Washington’s support, Herzog also explains why the congressional mountain has been so tough for the GOP to climb.
As the Grand Unifying Theory of North Dakota politics put it, “North Dakotans like to get as much as possible from Washington while sending as little as possible to Bismarck.”
But times are changing. Here’s Herzog on why things seem different now:
“Currently, we have record commodity prices, all-time high land values and Bakken oil money coming in — which, if properly managed, should secure a great future for our state for generations to come.
“The risks to our state don’t come from within our borders but out East in Washington. It is impossible to sustain the deficit spending. There is no magic bullet for this issue. There are a little over 400 billionaires in this country; if you took all their wealth — not just taxed them, but took it all — it would hardly make a dent in our deficit.”
Those two points are crucial as they’re likely to define North Dakota politics for some time to come.
First: North Dakotans no longer feel so dependent on Washington. Kevin Cramer was heartily endorsed by the Club for Growth, which helped block a House vote on the Farm Bill and, in fact, hopes to zero out the Farm Bill completely.
Cramer defeated Pam Gulleson, a strong Farm Bill supporter.
That’s likely North Dakota’s new dynamic at work.
Second and just as important (as Herzog writes), more North Dakotans now see Washington’s big debt-and-deficit problems as a threat. That’s a real change, and it helps explain both Cramer’s victory and the close U.S. Senate race — the neck-and-neck race for a seat Democrats had won handily for years.
The lesson for North Dakota politicians is clear: Pay attention to these trends. They’re not absolute; the state’s Air Force bases, among other economic pillars, still depend on federal support.
But the new and notable dimension is this: North Dakota’s delegation must be keenly conscious of Washington’s budget problem and willing to take bold steps to improve it. That’s what residents seem to think is needed to cement the state’s new prosperity — and that, it’s safe to say, is voters’ top priority of all.