This guest post was submitted by Dustin Gawrylow, managing director of the North Dakota Watchdog Network
Before you read the following opinion, please click this link and listen to the audio. If you don’t see a problem with what did and did not get said in this clip, then you probably won’t agree with anything else I have to say on the matter.
It is my view that we have a problem in the conservative movement, which I have been a part of since I got out of college in 2005.
This problem involves leadership in the conservative movement (as well as elected Republicans) being scared of the very people they have that turned into activists.
In the clip above, you hear an un-named caller ask the host and guests what can be done about the situation and he asks “if he needs to get a gun to take care of it”. The legislator, who should have said “no, and talk like that makes my job harder because being associated with that sort of thing is not what a legislative leader does”. Instead of doing that he tries to be nice, dancing around the issue, suggesting the caller should “pray and ask God what to do”, and then to paraphrase the legislator “sometimes I feel that way too, hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but be prepared for the worst” and citing the 2nd Amendment.
One of the jobs of elected leaders is to rein in and dial down the most extreme of their supporters.
At the risk of upsetting the owner of this blog, I think this is the problem that Rob Port is recognizing when he goes after Rick Becker and The Bastiat Caucus. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, and there is no good way to address it without pissing off people who consider themselves to be conservatives.
Those of us who have been involved in building and growing the conservative movement, now for the better part of two decades, need to help our elected officials push back on this sort of extreme rhetoric.
While there have not been a lot of issues I agree with State Senators Erin Oban and Nicole Poolman on, the kind of rhetoric heard in the audio clip above is the “toxic and divisive rhetoric” they referred to in their retirement announcements.
To a certain extent, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” applies. But at the same time, it is the role of elected leadership to keep the heat under control.
I urge my conservative friends, allies, and the elected officials I’ve helped get elected to grow a spine when it comes to their own supporters. We all need to be careful about who we associate with, and take ownership of who we associate with. If we don’t, things will continue to be out of control.