GRAND FORKS — Disappointment and bewilderment might be the watchwords for the week in politics.
Among the disappointing developments of the week is that U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., lost his spot in the national spotlight. Armstrong was qualified for the role, but he lost it in a tiff between the speaker of the U.S. House and its minority leader.
Armstrong, North Dakota’s only House member, had been named to a committee to investigate the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In the aftermath, Armstrong voted to accept the results of the 2020 election. Three other Republicans named to the committee voted not to, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected their participation. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy responded by refusing to have members of his caucus participate.
Thus did the light blink off for Armstrong.
That’s disappointing. Armstrong has established himself both as fair-minded, having resisted the pressure to vote against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory, and as an effective interrogator in the impeachment hearings. These qualities would have been on display had he been on the Jan. 6 committee – but he’s followed the leader and left the committee, leaving Pelosi, for the moment at least, with only one Republican on the panel, Liz Cheney of Wyoming. (Note: After this column was written, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., was added to the panel)
Pelosi’s move was unprecedented just as McCarthy’s response was predictable. It looks to me at least, as if McCarthy got the better of the speaker. Her action seems arbitrary, excessively partisan, and mean-spirited, not attractive attributes. More importantly, it makes her the focus of the upcoming campaign for control of the House. Of course, she could choose to retire. She is 80 years old. Even if she weren’t on the ballot, she’d be the centerpiece of the campaign
Here at home, the most interesting political development of the week was the dressing down conservative activists in District 24 got from the state Republican establishment. The district includes Valley City and rural areas in three counties.
The issue there is the behavior of Rep. Dwight Kiefert, which some constituents concluded “failed to meet” Republican standards. They’re circulating petitions to recall him from office.
It’s not as if Kiefert isn’t a conservative. A glance at his record in the 2021 session shows that he sponsored bills dealing with “stand your ground” laws, property tax valuations for homeowners over age 65, an “agriculture diversification and development loan fund,” cars eligible for permanent licensing, and the beef check-off. Only one of these passed, the loan fund, though a different version of the “stand your ground” legislation was adopted.
This leaves Kiefert 1-for-5 on proposed legislation (not counting two Senate bills that he signed on to).
Neither effectiveness nor philosophy are issues that vexed District 24 Republicans, nor could they be, since Kiefert’s alliance with the so-called Bastiat Caucus is both longstanding and well known. Apparently, this isn’t enough to meet the petitioners’ standards. Although the chair of the recall committee deflected this explanation, it seems clear that the real issue is Kiefert’s vote to expel Rep. Luke Simons of Dickinson, who was accused of misconduct mostly involving sexual harassment.
They’ll need to get 1,764 signatures within a year to trigger the recall. That’s a fourth of the votes cast for governor in the district in the last election. It’s also nearly half the votes that Kiefert himself won in that election, in 2020.
Then there’s this conundrum:
“What would you call a state with nearly 30,000 job openings waiting to be filled. We call it North Dakota. We call it home, and you can, too. Regardless of the direction your career path is taking you, the destination should be North Dakota."
That’s the message on nd.gov under the tab “Working.”
“It’s not a secret anymore – North Dakota means jobs,” the site proclaims.
Curious then, that the thousands of job seekers swamping the southern border of the United States are not welcome – unlike so many immigrants who came a century ago. In the 1920 census, released 100 years ago, North Dakota had the second highest level of foreign-born residents in the nation, behind only New York.
This century, would-be immigrants are met by armed forces, including about 125 members of the North Dakota National Guard deployed by Gov. Doug Burgum, who joined other Republican governors in sending Guard members to the border.
Those foreign-born immigrants of a century ago were mostly unskilled and mostly unable to speak English. And yes, they arrived without visas. And yes, many were fleeing poverty and oppression. And yes, they became Americans. And yes, we are their progeny.
The way to fill American jobs is to welcome immigrants and to train them for jobs here. Then we can take down all those “help wanted” signs lining nearly every major street in North Dakota.
Then there’s this from the northern border: Fully vaccinated Americans will be able to enter Canada beginning Aug. 9, but the Biden administration won’t let Canadians into the United States until Aug. 21.
Burgum had the right word for that. He called the move “preposterous.”
Mike Jacobs is a former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald.