Heidi Heitkamp Departs From Her State Party, Makes Conciliatory Comments About Donald Trump


North Dakota’s Democrats are busy trying to make a campaign issue out of Donald Trump’s ascendance in the Republican party.

“Donald Trump represents fear, ignorance, and hatred while demeaning women,” U.S. House candidate Chase Iron Eyes said back in April.

“Donald Trump has callously insulted women, minorities, veterans, the disabled and countless others who are all part of our extraordinary American democracy,” Senate candidate Eliot Glassheim posted on Twitter this month. “Standing up to Donald Trump’s vicious brand of politics is not a Democratic value or a Republican value. It is an American value.”

“Extremism of any form is unacceptable,” state Rep. Kylie Oversen, chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party, said in March, “and North Dakotans deserve representatives at all levels of government who stand up against hatred and denounce violence to bridge divides.”

But the only Democrat to win a statewide election in North Dakota since 2008, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, is sounding more conciliatory tones about Trump:

As Democrats portray Donald Trump as a dangerous leader for his party, most of them barely acknowledge he could be president. But some centrist Democrats say they’re ready and willing to work with the business mogul should he defeat their party’s nominee.

“The people will have a chance to vote. If Donald Trump is elected president there will be a great opportunity to sit down and have a conversation about what that agenda looks like,” explained Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who has long backed Hillary Clinton. “If he’s president, we’re going to have disagreement. But we’d better all figure out how to come up with an agenda for the American people.”

Politico goes on say that these mild comments on Trump, a departure from her state party’s rhetoric about the presumptive Republican nominee, “may just be good politics for moderate senators such as Heitkamp.”

They’re probably right.

I’m no fan of Trump myself, but the disconnect between Heitkamp and the rest of her state party seems illustrative of why Democrats can’t seem to win any elections here. They are hugely out of step with North Dakota’s voters, suggesting that the candidate most of them seem to support (according to polling) is some kind of a monster.

You’re not going to get very far with the electorate when you are accusing them of, by dint of who they support for president, being a bunch of racist misogynists.

But then there are many among North Dakota Democrats who think Heitkamp is too far to the right.

I’ve been wondering for a while now if Heitkamp would run for another term in the Senate in 2018. I think you can make a case that she might not, preferring to bow out gracefully instead of taking a likely defeat by Republicans at the ballot box.

But politically savvy comments like this make me think she very much wants to stay in office.