Over the years I have often heard North Dakota politicos of the Republican persuasion joke that if the Democrats in our state aren’t going to use their party for anything meaningful it ought to be taken over by conservatives, leaving us with a political divide between conservative and moderate Republicans.
State Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican from Bismarck and the leader of what he calls the Bastiat Caucus of libertarian-minded Republican lawmakers, considered turning that old saw into a reality this legislative session.
“Someone floated the idea by me to start up our own caucus and supplant the Democrats as the minority caucus,” Becker told me this morning.
In the state House and Senate chambers the caucuses representing the two parties vote to decide who their caucus leaders will be. The Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, etc. What Becker thought of doing was breaking off a faction of the sizable Republican majority, one presumably larger than the Democratic minority, and using that to elect a Republican minority leader as well.
“I thought it was an intriguing idea. I thought it over I checked with legislative council and there’s really not much in the way of rules,” Becker told me. “I deemed it was possible.”
But ultimately Becker decided against doing it, for the sake of not fracturing Republicans.
“What I ended up doing was talking with the new majority leader and try to get his feel on it,” he told me, referring to Rep. Chet Pollert of Carrington who was elected Majority Leader by the Republican caucus last week. “He and I both thought the number one concern is that it would be damaging to the Republicans.”
“Unless we mitigate that, we don’t want to do that,” Becker continued.
He told me the goal of his Bastiat Caucus is “adhering close to the Republican platform and trying to get others to do that.” He doesn’t believe a split in the Republican caucus would help that goal.
“It would demolish the Democrats, but it would also have hurt the Republicans,” he told me.
In case you’re curious, the Bastiat in Bastiat Caucus is a reference to the French economist and writer Frédéric Bastiat.