Ralph Kingsbury: North Dakota's Government Love Fest


I wouldn’t call it a love fest. Still it has to give the Democrats in North Dakota the shivers, and it has to also be disappointing to many of the SAB readers who are critical of the state government. I mean those who call the Governor and legislature RINOs (Republican in name only).

I am talking about the Gallup poll that showed 77 percent of North Dakota residents trust their state government either a great deal or a fair amount. That is the best in the United States, just slightly better than other Midwestern and western states. Wyoming is next at 76 percent, and South Dakota fourth at 74 percent. Our neighbor Minnesota was only at 62 percent trust. Minnesota of course has the tradition of progressivism. It is said to come from its Scandinavian pioneers,

I always find it interesting to read those political scientists and commentator “experts” who say North Dakota has too much elected government. I wonder if they ever stop to think that it has been that ability to “kick the bums out” that has created this confidence in our elected officials. That is, if we lose confidence in our elected officials we can get rid of them. Not so with the appointed dog catcher. As one political scientist who understands said, “this reflects the state’s history and culture of a government that is close to the people. Our government is us”, he said. I agree.

Don’t misunderstand. This poll doesn’t measure Republicans versus Democrats. It doesn’t predict the results of the election this fall. It says that over three fourths of the citizens of North Dakota have faith in their government. They believe they will “fix the problems”.

However, this poll is good for the Republicans at this point in time because the 77 percent is also about the proportion of North Dakota voters who voted Republican in state contests in the last election[RK1] . Don’t tell me there isn’t a relationship here that will benefit the Republicans going into the general election.

It was only an upstart woman who snuck up an overconfident state Republican party who I hope reminded the Republican Party that they should never presume anything. Let’s hope they learned their lesson and we don’t give that guy in the cowboy hat a win in agriculture, although it may be the best thing for two years down the road.

A good slap in the face may remove some of the presumptuousness from all of those who define themselves as the only true Republicans, those who claim the definition of Republican is only as the purist defines it[RK2] . As happened to the North Dakota Democrats after they ousted a governor, an attorney general, a superintendent of public instruction and several others, I fear the North Dakota Republicans are heading down that same road. Did we not learn anything from our neighbors and what they did to themselves?

Like many of the other North Dakota Republicans, just a couple of months ago I was convinced the Democrats were still too disorganized in this state to accomplish anything in this election. With no problems I was convinced we would still win every state wide election including controlling both the state senate and house.

Now I am not so confident. In the past couple of months I have begun to think the North Dakota Republicans could be facing death by a thousand cuts. It will be what the North Dakota Farm Bureau did to the ag commissioner. It will be by the fear that some generated in the average voter in attacking who the Republicans presented to them as the superintendent of public instruction only two years ago. It will be the constant attacks by the right wing against legislators and constitutional officers (the Governor, the Attorney General, and others) who they call RINOs, but who 77 percent of the citizens trust.

It is still a long time, in a political life at least, until the election. Because of legally imposed deadlines, the Democrats are having to show that they are better organized, better prepared, than we thought only a couple of weeks ago. The few open legislative contest says something. True, some are just names on a ballot, but they will bring more Democrat votes than if left open.

Still, polls like this do mean something, and if the Republicans don’t commit political suicide the voters still like us. At least they still like us if only….

If only….