Back during last year’s election I had lunch with then-gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum and we talked about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
At the time a lot of people, including this observer, were surprised at Burgum’s fulsome endorsement of Trump’s candidacy. He was (and still is) a hugely controversial and divisive figure even among Republicans. Burgum explained the endorsement to me by saying that Trump, whatever his faults, would be a better candidate for North Dakota than Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a no brainer,” Burgum told me.
I wasn’t so sure, and I harped on Burgum for his endorsement back when Trump was still in a competitive primary, but turns out he was right.
I was wrong.
I can illustrate how right Burgum, now our Governor, was with a letter a member of Trump’s candidate just sent him.
EPA head Scott Pruitt, in a March 30 letter attached to a recent press release, communicated to Burgum that North Dakota need not do anything to comply with the federal government’s Clean Power Plan going forward since that plan has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
That’s good news for our state since the Clean Power Plan has always seemed less a move toward good environmental stewardship than a vehicle for the Obama administration’s enmity toward coal-fired power. It’s politics, in other words, not good policy.
But what’s remarkable about this letter is how Pruitt closes. “The days of coercive federalism are over,” Pruitt told Burgum, explaining in one sentence why Trump has been so popular in states like North Dakota:
A remarkable couple of sentences, and a stunning departure from the approach of the Obama administration which sought to impose on the states that President’s ideological views on energy development costs be damned.
The promise of this sort of sea change in federal regulation is a big reason why Trump won the election. It’s why astute state leaders like Burgum looked past Trump’s deep and numerous flaws to support him anyway.
North Dakota has done well under Trump. He cleared the political obstacles around the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects. He’s rolled back numerous regulations which bedeviled those working in energy and agriculture, our state’s biggest industries. This has made him very popular in North Dakota.
I have to imagine that other states which rely on industry – those swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania which delivered Trump his victory in the Electoral College – are feeling similarly vindicated.