The conservative movement in North Dakota faces a number of challenges. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve taken a pretty good beating in recent years. But could it be that we’re our own worst enemy?
It’s true that there’s a big government Republican political establishment that rules the Peace Garden State. They’re well-funded. They hold offices at the State Capitol, a majority of legislative seats, and they even control the North Dakota Republican Party (NDGOP). And yes, many of them absolutely despise those of us who believe in limited government and the Republican Party platform. In fact, some of them are more interested in giving the Judy Lee’s of the world a pass, while criticizing the likes of Rick Becker.
(NOTE: Senator Judy Lee (R – District 13) recently scored in the bottom of the American Conservative Union’s rankings with her Democrat colleagues. Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7) scored at the top with a 100%.)
In recent years, we’ve seen our own Republican governor use his personal wealth, endorsements, and political action committee (PAC) to support big government Republican candidates— his aim being to defeat limited government Republicans (conservatives).
We’ve seen establishment Republicans freak out at the idea of conservative Republicans making gains on the NDGOP State Committee. The result was a variety of shenanigans during last year’s reorganization cycle. Whether it was ignoring or changing bylaws, not noticing meetings according to the law, making last minute changes to venue, or even shutting out people from observing the proceedings of reorganization; what we heard — and saw — was an embarrassment to rational people.
Efforts to make it more difficult on the conservative movement certainly haven’t ceased. A recent NDGOP State Committee meeting saw a proposal requiring candidates seeking the party’s endorsement at a state convention to pay for the privilege. After some minor amendments, it passed. Another proposal sought to eliminate the state endorsing convention— an arena in which the grassroots can have a significant voice. Thankfully, that was narrowly defeated. That same meeting saw eight of its participants walk out in protest to Chairman Perrie Schafer using his newly acquired — and arguably unconstitutional — authority from the North Dakota Legislature to fill district chair vacancies in eight districts for the all-important meeting. (Note: The vacancies had occurred as a result of redistricting.)
All of these things — and others — can be cited to illustrate the ongoing civil war within the North Dakota Republican Party. They’re realities. Through it all we see evidence of the establishment’s stranglehold on North Dakota politics. Yet, the question at hand for conservatives is very simple— What are we going to do about it?
Admittedly, it’s terribly frustrating to fight political battles when your opponent doesn’t always follow the rules themselves. Yet, I think the principles for which we stand — and the state in which we live — are worth fighting for. In doing so, the conservative movement in North Dakota could learn a great deal from Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden.
At one point in his 27-year stint with UCLA, Wooden’s team won 10 national championships in 12 years. This included an 88-game win streak. It was well-known that UCLA’s coaching staff gave little attention to scouting their opponents. Instead, Wooden focused on preparing his own players. His philosophy was fairly simple— focus on what you can control because consistent steps ultimately result in big gains.
So, what are some of the things that we need to focus more on and do a better job of as advocates of limited government? Here’s some off the top of my head:
- A Larger Army – I honestly believe that the conservative movement is larger than it has been. But — and don’t hate me for saying this — it’s not enough. If we are going to make gains, then people have to turn out in bigger numbers. It doesn’t matter if it’s local races, district conventions, a state convention, primary races, or a general election. The people with the most votes win— period. We need motivated people who are willing to do their part to win.
- Recruiting Credible Candidates – It doesn’t matter how awful an incumbent might be. They may well have an R next to their name and vote like a Democrat. There’s certainly plenty of them. But none of that matters if there’s not someone to challenge them. It’s why I wrote nearly three years ago that Replacing Big Government Republicans is the Only Way to Change Bismarck. And by the way, PLEASE take note of that word “credible”. It’s vitally important.
- Funding – It’s probably everyone’s least favorite aspect of political activism. Yet, it’s often vital to the success of candidacies and political movements. This is true more than ever before in North Dakota. I’m not saying our candidates have to have the most money to win, but they must be able to compete. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in defeat.
- Avoid Blunders – This is one of the most frustrating things for me and it has nothing to do with our political opponents at all. Whether it’s unnecessary social media posts, personal attacks, threats of lawsuits (that don’t get carried out) or certain individuals running self-aggrandizing campaigns for office — that aren’t really campaigns at all — credibility takes a hit with the general public. And when this happens, we all suffer. Before we know it, those guilty of such things are labeled as “clowns” and the rest of us are lumped in as being part of the “clown show”. For those of us unjustly lumped in, our innocence is irrelevant if political opponents can successfully convince others that the narrative is somehow true. Like it or not, public perception matters. Right or wrong, in politics perception is reality. Politics is tough as it is. It’s just downright stupid if people do things that our opponents can use against us.
I’m confident that conservatives can have a significant influence on the direction of our state in the years to come. But in order to do that, we have to win. And in order to win, we have to do the things that result in victories. Failure to do so only makes us our own worst enemy.
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- Lawmakers | ACU Ratings (conservative.org)
- Establishment Republicans are Ignoring the Reality of District Reorgs – The Minuteman Blog
- North Dakota GOP to charge fees of state candidates vying for endorsement | Govt-and-politics | bismarcktribune.com
- Walkout Protest at State GOP Meeting | The Dakotan | Greg Demme (mydakotan.com)
- The NDGOP, Legislature, & Power Grab You Didn’t Know About – The Minuteman Blog
- 3 Keys to Success from Legendary Coach John Wooden | STACK
- Replacing Big Government Republicans is the Only Way to Change Bismarck – The Minuteman Blog