With Democrats Fading, North Dakota's Republicans Should Seek Out And Engage Libertarians

On June 14 North Dakotans will go to the polls and cast their ballots on a Republican gubernatorial primary race between Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum.

Once that race is settled, it’s going to feel like the rest of the election cycle leading up to the November general election vote is just a formality. I don’t think anyone in the state honestly believes, once you cut through the rote partisan bluster, that Democratic candidates can win any of the statewide offices this year. It’s doubtful that they can even make up an meaningful ground in the Legislature either.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]When we move past the primary season, and into the general election, Republicans should make a point of engaging not just the cadre of last-minute sacrificial lambs the Democrats tapped to fill out their ballot but the better organized Libertarian candidates as well.[/mks_pullquote]

So here’s a thought for Republicans: The North Dakota Libertarian party is running a full slate of statewide candidates, and even a few legislative candidates. Seek these candidates out and engage them in debate.

Why would Republicans do such a thing? Why would they invite opposition to their agenda?

For one thing, a debate between Republicans and Libertarians would be more meaningful for our state. The platform of ideas trickling down to North Dakota Democrats from their national party is so far outside of what’s best for North Dakota that it doesn’t even seem worth engaging. In one election cycle after another North Dakotans have, in very large majorities, rejected those ideas giving Republicans a political super-majority. It might be better if the debate centered on competition with a different set of ideas from what the Democrats are offering.

For another, Republicans need competition to stay sharp. At the heart of conservatism is a fundamental belief in the power of markets to weed out bad ideas and promote good ones. That works whether we’re talking about a market for widgets or public policy. If our state’s incompetent Democrats are intent on embracing policy ideas that will relegate them to the fringes of governance in the state, thus failing to offer a robust competition with Republicans, then the Republicans ought to seek out a better sort of opponent.

Maybe that’s the Libertarians. Maybe it’s not. But it’s worth a shot. What isn’t serving anyone in North Dakota very well is one-party rule.

When we move past the primary season, and into the general election, Republicans should make a point of engaging not just the cadre of last-minute sacrificial lambs the Democrats tapped to fill out their ballot but the better organized Libertarian candidates as well.

This sounds crazy, I know. I’m sure Republicans are thinking that their job isn’t to provoke competition but simply to advance their agenda. But I would argue that the public, watching Republicans advance that agenda in a vacuum left behind by Democrats, might not be so willing to accept it.

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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