James Kerian: The Party Matters

North Dakota conservatives often complain that we don’t get much for the Republicans holding every office in Bismarck that is elected on the state wide ballot and a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature. Spending at the state level has grown astronomically. The crony capitalism of targeted sales and property tax exemptions has run rampant. Bills to fully extend equal protection under the law to all unborn human beings have repeatedly failed in the legislature. The medicaid expansion of Obamacare has been adopted by our state. Seven states have no income tax. Five states have no sales tax. North Dakota still has both and our supposed property tax relief has become primarily a transfer of funds from the state government to local governments.

It is tempting and all too common to look at this situation and conclude that there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in this state. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that there are some Republican office holders on the liberal side of every issue I have listed above, but what you will not find is a Democrat office holder on the conservative side. North Dakota Republicans have stretched for support into the ideological center and (in some cases) well beyond. But Democrats have not responded in kind. Rather than fight the Republicans for the center-left North Dakota Democrats have followed their national party into ever more extreme expressions of their “progressive” ideology.

While there are RINO legislators with voting records among the most liberal in the state house there are no Democrats even approaching the center. Republican legislators have introduced legislation to eliminate the state income tax. Has any Democrat introduced legislation to eliminate any significant tax? It was Republican legislators who successfully fought to increase the income tax relief last session while Democrat legislators fought them every step of the way. For all the problems pointed out above if you ever listen to North Dakota Democrats all you’ll hear is that the state isn’t spending enough and that we need to “invest” more. You’ll hear that the state government needs to further prioritize “economic development” (i.e. crony capitalism) and that North Dakota’s new laws that protect an unborn child so thoroughly developed that their heartbeat can be detected are somehow “extreme.” The Democrats are still fuming that North Dakota did not set up its own state-wide Obamacare exchange and the only type of tax relief that any of them seem to be willing to consider is a plan limited to a specific special interest group.

If you are exclusively focused on a single idea (even if it is a good idea like the elimination of property taxes or equal protection under the law for all unborn children) then you may not be able to see a difference between the two political parties in this state. But as Otto Von Bismarck once observed “politics is the art of the possible” and across the entire range of possible policy outcomes the difference in votes cast in the legislature is pretty hard to miss.

Every concern I listed at the beginning of the article needs to be addressed. For the good of the state as well as the good of the party conservatives must continue to fight (often against some fellow Republicans) on spending, cronyism, protection of the unborn, opposition to Obamacare and tax relief. On each of those fronts, however, any amount of power gained by North Dakota’s Democrats can only be a set back. That is why I remain an avid (if not necessarily always proud) member of the Republican party.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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