This Is Why Republicans Have Dominated Government in North Dakota for More Than Two Decades

One popular bit of mythology often espoused by Democrats here in North Dakota is that the “Republican super majority” in state government marches in lock step to advance some sort of extreme right-wing agenda. They’re fond of suggesting that the state government marches in tune to edicts from House Majority Leader Al Carlson and “big oil” and blah, blah, blah.

That Democrats believe these things of North Dakota’s really rather moderate Republicans is probably why they just lost more than a dozen seats from their already tiny minorities in the Legislature.

Plus, there’s the fact that these claims simply aren’t true. While state government in North Dakota may be dominated by Republicans, the Republicans are quite diverse in their politics and tend towards independence. Which is probably a big reason why Republicans have dominated state government for more than two decades.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Republicans in North Dakota seem willing to put policy over partisanship, and in doing so put the priorities of their constituents over loyalty to their party, often to the consternation of those hoping for a more thorough adherence to conservative principles.[/mks_pullquote]

Recently political science professor Mark Johnson pointed out, in a guest post here on SAB, that Carlson actually gets less support from his caucus than his counterparts in other legislatures. And then there’s Governor-elect Doug Burgum, who will take office with a Legislature that’s probably keen to challenge him on any number of policy fronts after an election cycle in which he campaigned (at least during the primary) against the Legislature’s record.

“They’re going to test him like crazy,” former Governor Ed Schafer told the Bismarck Tribune recently of Burgum’s relationship with the Legislature.

“The first people to attack me were Republicans,” he said of his own experience as governor beginning in 1992.

This a positive thing. Again, it may explain why Republicans have built enduring majorities in the Legislature.

Republicans in North Dakota seem willing to put policy over partisanship, and in doing so put the priorities of their constituents over loyalty to their party, often to the consternation of those hoping for a more thorough adherence to conservative principles.

They were doing it back in 1992, when Schafer helped usher in an era of Republican political dominance in our state, and Republicans seem set to continue the tradition with Burgum.

That’s as a should be.

The Legislature should always be a challenge for the executive branch. That is the essence of being a “check” and a “balance” on other branches of government. And elected leaders, individually, should always strive to serve their constituents above all else. That’s how you continue to win elections, one cycle after another.

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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