Unless you’ve been in a coma, are completely disconnected from politics, or have been on a hiatus; then you’re at least somewhat familiar with the unfortunate circumstances surrounding North Dakota’s Secretary of State race. Republican endorsed candidate Will Gardner was caught in a peeping incident at NDSU in January of 2006.
The publicity of the embarrassing incident, that occurred 12 years ago, ultimately caused him to drop out of the race less than 48 hours after it came to light. And as a result, current Secretary of State Al Jaeger – who Gardner had beat for the party’s endorsement last month – has now jumped back in the race and will run as an Independent.
Undoubtedly, many people just want to move on and make the political saga go away. I can’t say that I blame them. While I’ve written much about this, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed doing so. Yet, to my knowledge, there’s nothing quite like this in North Dakota’s history. So, there’s many valuable lessons to learn from the debacle— and I hope that they are learned.
While having a conversation with a great political friend today, our attention turned to the future of North Dakota’s Republican Party and limited government movement. I personally believe this can be a pivotal moment in North Dakota politics. In what ways it’s pivotal will hinge, in large part, on how the party as a whole – and individuals themselves – choose to respond to it. There’s little doubt in my mind that in the future we’ll see a more concerted effort to vet candidates in North Dakota.
Because the future of North Dakota’s Republican Party will rest largely upon the shoulder’s of it’s Young Republicans, they’d do well to pay very close attention to how this entire Secretary of State situation has played out. Decisions have consequences— and sometimes very serious ones.
One of the most damning ideas in the mind of man is to do something, that we know we shouldn’t be doing, simply because we think nobody is watching. Developing the fortitude of character to do what is right – whether alone or with others – is the mark of true character. Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts put it this way:
“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”
On a cold January day in 2006, a much younger Will Gardner made a decision that I’m guessing he didn’t fully anticipate the long-term consequences of. And the reality is that he’s not alone. Politics and the world is filled with people who make mistakes. Some of those mistakes are worse than others. And some may be overlooked, while others are not.
In what is likely to be a much more vetted political environment, the best thing that today’s Young Republicans can do is to live honorable lives— to avoid situations and circumstances which may lead to poor decisions that, if exposed, bring shame upon self, family, and others. Quite simply, one must think before acting. Doing so will not only make for a better society, but it will enable today’s young people to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Yes, the pressure is on and we’re depending on you. We need you— at your very best.