Is North Dakota due for another Non-Partisan moment?

In an age of fiery hyper-partisanship driven by intractable wedge issues, to be a centrist or anyone politically agnostic is to be left between a rock and a hard place, both of which are dying to squish you for daring to be caught in the middle. While the culture war rages on, the day-to-day concerns of everyone else often fall by the wayside as the political establishment goes through the motions of the kabuki theater of Washington.

The more productive path usually is to look inward toward your own state’s situation, but that doesn’t do much to cure the discontent for any voter caught in the center. The political domination by the North Dakota GOP is mostly due to the aforementioned wedge issues, which has opened the door for Gov. Doug Burgum and his pet PAC to corral every level of state government into his desired alignment.

North Dakotans can’t even depend on their Washington delegation to work against the cognitive dissonance of the Biden Administration’s asinine energy and ruinous fiscal policies, which grows more committed by the day to self-destruction than they are interested in supporting the best interests of the nation. Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Sen. John Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer have all been pulled into the Beltway’s gyre, voting yes with their fellow Congress critters to commit $40 billion in funding for our proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. This is a figure that exceeds the nation’s spending on bridges and roads in a typical year.

Perhaps if even an iota of the urgency given to fill the insatiable gullet of the “Bread Basket of Europe” could be directed to our domestic bread basket, our state and nation wouldn’t be in such a precarious position.

The breakdown of the continuum from the oil field, to the farm, to the store shelf, to the table has resulted in everything from diesel, fertilizer, to baby formula being harder to find and even hard to afford. The consequences of national policies and supply chain breakdowns curtail local producers’ abilities to do what they do best, ultimately decimating the pocketbooks of every citizen up and down the line. Maybe the time has come for the voters of North Dakota to look to their history, and strike out in a different direction than the leadership offered by the traditional two parties.

I speak, of course, of the fabled Non-Partisan League, the insurgent political movement that shook up state politics more than a century ago, and exists today as a vestigial label slapped on the end of the declining Democratic Party. The League’s efforts succeeded in large part because they eschewed the far-left rhetoric of the American Socialist party, eventually growing into a broad coalition of producers, laborers and small business owners, that found most of its voters in the base of the Republican party of the time. While the successes of the League were marginal in retrospect, their efforts produced systems of self-reliance that still exist today, like the Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator.

In his seminal “History of North Dakota,” historian Elwin B. Robinson observed that “History seems to show that all producers of raw materials everywhere, in spite of their struggles, have always been dependent upon and exploited by the producers of the finished products,” a notion that rings true in the current year given the issues confronting farmers, ranchers and the roughnecks of the Bakken oil fields.

From the oil and gas in the ground, to the fertilizer and fuel refined from it, to crops they are used to cultivate and harvest, all the way up to the data derived from our daily existences, everything is monetized and dependent on the other. As Robinson noted, it still pays infinitely better to be at the back end of the deal than the front. Nobody understands this better than farmers and ranchers and the truckers who haul their grain and cattle, fleeced by inflation and gas prices on their way to a market controlled by vertical monopolies guaranteeing profits for no one but themselves.

These same monopolies then package and sell the final products to the public at ever rising prices, advertised with unsettling precision as they are captured in the flow of social media algorithms more aware of every individual’s bowel movement than they are. Like I said, it’s a continuum, one that is being manipulated to work against the human beings caught up in it, no matter how hard “democracy” tries to work for them.

I know our former Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl has decreed the League dead, leaving it conjoined to a party that holds nothing but condescension and contempt for the residents of flyover country. Our state’s politics is consumed by a supermajority devolving into a petty Mexican standoff between an entrenched establishment, a groundswell of dissident conservatives, and a governor uninterested in compromising with either of them. This robs us as voters of an opportunity to strike out outside of party affiliation in a political climate rife with apathy and unaccountability.

Unless North Dakotans are allowed to reclaim their stake in this ever-changing world that has little concern for their wellbeing let alone their ability to pursue happiness, this goat will most definitely be got until there’s nothing left to get.


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