Is it too much to ask that North Dakota’s political campaigns be about North Dakota?


MINOT, N.D. — During the 2020 election cycle the race for treasurer between Republicans Dan Johnston and Thomas Beadle in the NDGOP primary, then between Beadle and Democrat Mark Haugen in the general election, was weirdly focused on abortion.

There was much talk about who the “pro-life” candidate was in the race. This was weird because whoever is holding the office of treasurer in the state of North Dakota (that’s Beadle, in case you missed the news) has nothing to do with abortion policy.

The abortion issue shouldn’t have come up in that race. The debate should have been focused on the sorts of things the treasurer actually does, such as sitting on the State Investment Board. Instead, because American politics has become the primary venue for our national culture war, we talked about abortion .

The 2020 race for treasurer may have been a particularly egregious example of this phenomenon, but the tendency to make every political campaign, no matter how local, no matter how picayune, about hot-button national topics permeates American political discourse.

North Dakota is not immune.

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