North Dakota Democrats Descend Into Self Parody


Over the holiday weekend reporter Mike Nowatzki published one of the most revealing pieces of North Dakota political journalism I’ve seen all year.

If you’re a member of a political party which hasn’t had a majority in the state Senate since 1995, or a majority in the state House since 1985, and has had just one victory on the statewide ballot since 2008 would it be wise to be critical of the person who gave you that one victory?

If you’re a North Dakota Democrat the answer to that question is yes.

“I’d rather be at odds with my Democratic caucus than at odds with the interests of the people of my state and good public policy,” Heitkamp told Nowtazki of her tendency to govern like a Republican on issues like fossil fuel energy. The thing is, though, as Nowtazki’s piece revels, Heitkmap isn’t just at odds with her national party. He’s at odds with her own party here in North Dakota.

But the immediate past chairman of the state Democratic-NPL Party said he has heard from some state Democrats frustrated with some of Heitkamp’s votes.

“It does present a rather interesting dilemma for the party structure that is trying to convince the voters that they should vote for progressives in the state,” Bob Valeu said.

That is a startling level of truth for a long-time political operative. Truth that’s not particularly flattering for Heitkamp or her state party.

Heitkamp says she’s putting the interests of North Dakotans above the goals of her political party, and that’s obviously true for calculated political reasons, but what then does it say of North Dakota Democrats that they are also at odds with Heitkamp? Maybe that the state’s Democrat activists rank ideological loyalty above pragmatic policy considerations?

That seems a likely explanation, especially given how voters have relegated Democrats to super minority status in state government.

Valeu couches his criticism of Heitkamp in overall support. “I feel very comfortable supporting her 100 percent,” he said. “While I may not particularly agree with her on every vote, I believe she is the best national leader North Dakota has.”

But still, this is a tacit acknowledgement of what the overwhelming majority of North Dakota voters want and it’s not the progressive, far-left politics of Valeu and the Democrat party leadership.

What an absolutely spot-on caricature of where North Dakota Democrats are right now. They have moved so far to the political margins that they are nearly inconsequential when it comes to governing the state, and yet still can’t help slinging some mud at the only Democrat who has managed any electoral success on the statewide ballot.