My most recent Sunday print column was about the North Dakota Republican Party and the ways in which, fairly or unfairly, they seem to be losing the faith of the North Dakota electorate.
My argument is that Republicans seem increasingly indifferent to how they’re perceived by the public. Last year voters approved Measure 1, a supposed “ethics” amendment to our state constitution, and while I’ve argued consistently that the amendment is very poor public policy, the vote was also a reflection of how voters perceive their government which is currently led by Republicans.
The voters clearly felt there are problems with ethics and accountability. That the fix they voted for is bad policy is neither here nor there for the purposes of this post.
Anyway, this column elicited a response from the NDGOP’s official Twitter account:
We’re not. https://t.co/ZUKZZurnwB
— ND Republican Party (@NDGOP) May 16, 2019
I’m a little surprised. Not that the party would disagree with my criticism of it. I can tell you that it’s echoed, privately, by many Republicans across the state but the party is hardly going to acknowledge it publicly.
What surprises me is how glib this response is, and I wonder if that’s not a product of the blind spot the NDGOP seems to have developed.
There is a growing sentiment among the public that our Republican-dominated state government is indifferent to them. Out of touch.
In 2016 Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican though posturing himself as outside the Republican establishment, tapped into that wide vein of dissatisfaction with his campaign against the “good old boys club.”
Then in 2018 the voters passed Measure 1.
It’s true this dissatisfaction I’m alleging hasn’t shown up yet in terms of outcomes for candidates seeking elected office. Even as they voted for Measure 1, the state’s voters also cast their ballots to maintain Republican control of state government and the state’s seats in Congress.
But is that because the state’s voters are in love with Republicans? Or because they’ve been so thoroughly alienated by the Democratic party they’re voting Republican as the only other choice available?
The answer to that question is no doubt complicated, because the reasons why voters cast their ballots the way they do is complicated. It’s a complex decision influenced by a very large number of variables.
Republicans, though, would do well to better understand when voters do things which express a lack of faith in state government. Let those feelings fester long enough, and the state’s electorate may well get over their aversion to voting for Democrats.