North Dakotans are known as friendly people. I’ve always loved that about our state. Strangers stopping to help those broke down along a road, small town fundraisers for someone in need, or the wave to a complete stranger as you pass them on the road. These are all things that people from other states notice and they set us apart from many other places.
These examples – and many others – are what has led some people to use the phrase "North Dakota Nice" to describe the good people of the state. This is admirable, but there’s one place many North Dakotans need to learn that North Dakota Nice does not work. In fact, it can often be a horrible disadvantage. That is the field of politics.
I’ve noticed that true constitutional conservatives/non-establishment types most often fall into this category. They are some of the most God-fearing Christian-loving people I know. And as such, it seems they are susceptible to not wanting to "step on toes".
By saying this, I am not suggesting that North Dakotans who are involved in politics need to be rude. I’m suggesting they need not be afraid to stand on principle and to be bold in the face of those who have no problem victimizing them because of their niceness.
To some degree, North Dakotans saw an example of what boldness in politics can accomplish in last year’s Republican Primary for the gubernatorial race between Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Burgum. Most honest people would admit that Stenehjem was the establishment’s man. He was expected by most to not only win the primary, but to move on and become our governor as well.
But something interesting happened. Doug Burgum decided to take the fight to the establishment. Not only did he portray himself as an outsider, but he relentlessly pointed out the state’s spending problem, referred to the "Good ‘ol Boy’s Club", and framed himself as the man to change Bismarck. And it worked. He shocked the poltical establishment by beating Wayne Stenehjem by over 20 percentage points and went on to beat Democratic challenger Marvin Nelson by about 56 percentage points.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Governor Burgum is a constitutional conservative. He’s not. But the point is that he didn’t shy away from crafting a message and standing for it. The fascinating thing is that Burgum is actually quite a gentlemen. I’ve met him and find him impressive, though I have my differences with him on policy issues. But he’s no pushover.
Politics can be a nasty game. And it’s full of some nasty people who not only want to beat us, but they want to pummel us.
If limited government folks want true change in North Dakota. If we want to beat the establishment. Then we can’t worry about stepping on toes. Some folks don’t move until their toes are stepped on. And once in a while, we may have to bloody their nose– figuratively speaking of course. Why? Because North Dakota Nice does not equate to changing establishment politics.