Are We Really Going To Have A Debate About Whether Or Not Doug Burgum Is A Cowboy?


In the Fargo Forum today a letter writer essentially accuses me of being a liar because I mocked gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum for what I perceived to be a contrived performance as a cowboy for a Facebook video about how he spent his Memorial Day weekend.

Complete with slow motion lassoing.

When politicians do silly, self-aggrandizing things I think they deserve to be mocked. Call me old fashioned.

Burgum is probably losing by a wide margin in North Dakota, and that video was his campaign’s singularly ham-handed way of trying to appeal to that geographical demographic. I thought it was patronizing and I don’t think it’s going to work.

But according to the letter writer, I’m all wet because Doug Burgum really is a cowboy. After all, Burgum “not only owns but also operates” a ranch.

In this case, I am referring to Rob Port’s column of June 2, where he accuses Doug Burgum of wearing a “cowboy costume” in an advertisement for the purpose of “pandering to our state’s agrarian roots.” With even a minimal, 30-second internet search, Port could have found that Burgum not only owns, but also operates a cattle ranch out in the western part of our state. In fact, Burgum uses horses (not four-wheelers or Rangers), brands each animal by hand, and ropes each on horseback. Needless to say, the cowboy costume is not a costume at all.

It’s a matter of public record that Burgum owns a ranch. I’m not disputing that.

What I do have to question is this suggestion that Burgum operates a ranch. I have almost zero experience with farming or ranching myself, but I have friends and family who work in that industry. From what I have observed of their lives over the years I do feel I’m qualified to say that ranching in western North Dakota isn’t something you do part-time from downtown Fargo.

It’s clear that Doug Burgum likes and admires the ranching lifestyle. That’s great! And it’s just fine that he has the sort of wealth which allows him to indulge that interest as a hobby. But it’s more than a little patronizing to tell people that you understand them because you do certain aspects of their all-consuming, anxiety-addled jobs as a hobby.

Meanwhile, this is up on the Burgum campaign Facebook page now, obviously in response to me. For someone who wants a political career, I think Doug is going to need some thicker skin.