Governor Burgum for President! Why not?
Setting partisan differences aside and speaking as a political scientist, Governor Doug Burgum has done a good job of protecting the role of the executive branch of state government. He has stood up to the encroachment of the legislative branch by using his veto.
Through the years, the legislature has been engaged in a relentless campaign to crowd into the jurisdiction of the executive branch by passing laws to put themselves on executive committees and boards.
The key “founding fathers” – Hamilton and Madison – had a few observations in The Federalist Papers about the aggressiveness of legislative bodies that has appeared in North Dakota.
Founding Fathers Speak
In Federalist No. 6, Hamilton asks: “Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice and other irregular and violent propensities?”
In Federalist 71, Hamilton noted that “the representatives of the people, in a popular assembly, seem to fancy that they are the people themselves.”
In Federalist 73, Hamilton repeats: “The propensity of the legislative department to intrude upon the rights, and to absorb the powers of the other departments has been already more than once suggested.”
Now most readers could care less about the separation of powers. Most people want to get things done, even tear up the constitution if necessary. That is what January 6th was about.
Should Governors Testify?
Having been closely associated with three governors, it always made me nervous when they decided to take on the lobbyist mode and testify before legislative committees. It seemed to me that their role in the process was using the veto power and testifying was compromising the separation of powers.
All of the governors I have worked with started their careers in the legislature. As a result, I think they gave the legislature too much respect. Perhaps President Biden’s 20-some years in Congress has mellowed his use of executive authority.
Burgum Astonishing and Delightful
Again speaking as a political scientist and not a partisan, I find Governor Burgum’s willingness to crash the presidential race in 2024 both astonishing and delightful. He has even demonstrated the courage to go to Iowa to let outsiders know he may be in the 2024 ballgame.
Because North Dakota has only three electoral votes our state is often dismissed for candidates from New York, Texas and California. So what is this guy from Arthur, North Dakota, population around 325, up to?
But just because Governor Burgum comes from a small town in a small state doesn’t mean that he should be dismissed outright. During my years in governmental circles I learned that government consists of ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs.
Make no mistake. Governor Burgum would restore sanity to Republican politics and he could do well at an extraordinary job even though he is a little more than ordinary.
Variety of Opportunities
Even though his presidential race would be a long shot, it would produce a wide variety of opportunities. If he didn’t get nominated for vice president, he could be the Secretary of Energy in a Republican administration, an option he would love.
As a presidential candidate, he would have a platform from which he could articulate issues that are important to him. That in itself may be very satisfying. Anyway, the morning coffee circles in North Dakota would have a table topic for another couple of months.
First, he needs to spend about $100 million in national advertising to make himself known. ID is sometimes more important than issues. Across the nation, North Dakota is recognized as an energy powerhouse so he would have that credibility going into the race.
(If this column is ever mentioned by partisans, I will deny every word.)
Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.