Midterm elections unlikely to be as contentious here

All around the country, partisans are preparing themselves for a bloodbath of a midterm election. The ugliness of the race began before Inauguration Day and has only continued to escalate in news cycle after news cycle in which “fake news,” remarkably irregular behavior by the President of the United States and the now-complete schism between urban and rural America dominate discussion and further drive enmity.

As the mainstream narrative goes, a groundswell of progressive Democrats, joined by suit-and-tie conservatives are set to rise up, deliver Congress to the Democrats and spend the next two years trying to impeach Trump – apparently because they aren’t sure they can defeat him in an actual election. In the minds of many, it’s a done deal, so deep is the hatred of Trump in the wealthy enclaves of the left where he was once a benefactor and icon. Also inevitable in the mind of many is the absolute ugliness that will characterize the midterm election.

However, North Dakota is less likely to stake a space out for such an ugly midterm. In fact when the name-calling gets too ugly, the wild accusations fly and most salactious news (real of “fake”) undulates across the nation’s psyche, North Dakota might just be one of the nicer havens.

North Dakota is not, as some assert, a one-party state. There are Democrats, possibly even a growing number of them, even if they are still very much a minority. Once Rep. Kevin Cramer announced he was not seeking the U.S. Senate, the one real potential heavyweight compeition in the state was temporarily shelved. Presumed Heitkamp challenger Tom Campbell has certainly raised his exposure level the past few months, but part of the image he has fostered is as a nice guy. Heitkamp is a veteran politician who knows how to win elections and seems to have a deep pot of money to play with. Yes, this could inevitably become a messy match depending on how each side decides to play the competition.

What isn’t going to drive an acrimonious election cycle is the Trump Factor. Whereas Democrats will use Trump’s perceived foibles against most Republicans, the president retains solid support politically in North Dakota. In addition, some of the same policies railed against by opponents are popular here – taking the boot off the throat of energy producers, deregulation, tax reform all come to mind. Drumming these issues will energize the Democrat base, but it isn’t the type of criticism which seems likely to pull across party lines. There will be attempts to use the strategy, but numbers will bear out fairly quickly that it isn’t a path to success. It seems an unlikely play to make much of a difference in the Legislature.

All North Dakotans benefit from a balance of power, by a mature, reasoned debate on issues with proponents from both sides of the aisle. However, nothing on the horizon points to multiple contentious races. Whether for good or ill, it appears we will enjoy a midterm election far less ugly than in some parts of the country – unless politicians choose to make it ugly, even when there is little hope of it having any major impact. And that would be a shame.