“We Cannot Be an Identity Politics Party” Says Man Who Wants to Lead North Dakota Democrats

C.T. Marhula, speaks on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

C.T. Marhula wants to be the chairman of the North Dakota Democratic party, and he thinks he has the right ideas to lead the state’s liberals out of the political wilderness.

“Back to basics,” he told me when I asked him how during an interview on my radio show today.

“We cannot be an east-of-I29 party,” he continued, referring to the interstate which runs north-south through the Red River Valley. “We cannot be an identity politics party. We cannot isolate on the universities in Grand Forks and Fargo.”

That all makes a lot of sense. But saying things like that is a lot better than figuring out how a bunch of liberals are going to appeal to the large majority of North Dakotans who a) don’t live in the Red River Valley and b) are quite a bit more conservative than those who do.

“We cannot be an east-of-I29 party,” he continued, referring to the interstate which runs north-south through the Red River Valley. “We cannot be an identity politics party. We cannot isolate on the universities in Grand Forks and Fargo.”

I do think North Dakota Republicans, despite their impressive dominance of state government, are vulnerable in some ways. Their profligacy during the oil boom years has now come back to bite them. If a candidate could run to the right of Republicans on state spending that Republican could win, I think.

Heck, that’s what Governor Doug Burgum did. He took the state party by storm, slamming the state’s political status quo as “good old boys” responsible for “run away spending.”

But Burgum did that as a Republican, and has in his resume the business bonafides to lend some credibility to his arguments.

The Democrats, meanwhile, spent the oil boom years mostly complaining that Republicans weren’t spending enough money.

Any Democratic candidate who appears before North Dakota voters and tells them he or she wants to cut spending is going to find themselves the victim of a credibility gap. If our state’s voters have a hard time believing Republicans mean what they say when they talk about fiscally prudent governance, I think they have an even harder time believing it from Democrats.

Marhula has the right idea, I think, but does his party have the right personnel? I’m not so sure.

When I asked Marhula why Democrats should support him as their leader as opposed to current party leader Kylie Oversen, who has said she’s running to hold the position for another cycle, he said that “80 percent of success is showing up.”

“I will show up,” he added.

I asked if he was implying that Oversen didn’t show up for her duties as state chair. “I’m not going to criticize Kylie,” he said, turning the discussion back to Republicans.

“The GOP, they can campaign but they can’t govern,” he said.

Here’s audio of our full interview:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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