MINOT, N.D. — Most North Dakotans don't trust Democrats.
This wasn't always the case. A dozen years ago, the state's delegation to Congress — Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, along with Rep. Earl Pomeroy — was comprised entirely of Democrats.
That changed right around the time Barack Obama was elected to the White House. Behind him was a new type of Democratic Party. One focused on urban areas and harboring a not-at-all disguised disdain for people from our part of the world.
Remember how Obama described us in 2008? "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he said.
Dumb, racist, superstitious rubes, in other words.
This was something more than a campaign-trail gaffe. The comments were a genuine representation of how Obama felt, and we know that because seven years later, as he neared the end of his second term, he was still saying the same things about us.
This attitude has permeated the Democratic Party, and they have paid for it at the polls. From the first year of Obama's tenure in the White House to the last year, Democrats lost more than 10% of the U.S. Senate, nearly 19.3% of House seats, more than 20% of control in state legislatures, and almost 36% of governorships.
Most of those losses came here in bitter clinger land.
Democrats have rebounded some, post-Obama, perhaps thanks to the Republicans organizing themselves behind Trump, who is every bit as divisive a national figure as Obama but far less eloquent about it.
That recovery in fortunes hasn't made its way to North Dakota yet.
Here, the Democratic Party shows few signs of life. They spend most of their time trying to convince North Dakota voters that they aren't at all like their national counterparts.
Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was fond of distinguishing the Democratic-NPL and the national Democratic Party. I've interviewed the Democratic-NPL's two top-of-the-ticket candidates this cycle — Shelley Lenz, for governor, and Zach Raknerud, for U.S. House — and both have made the same sort of comments to me.
They're for the Democratic-NPL, they've said, and disagree in many ways with the national Democratic Party.
What, then, are we to make of the Democratic-NPL inviting a figure like former Obama cabinet member and erstwhile presidential candidate Julian Castro to speak in North Dakota?
On Sept. 26, the Democratic-NPL faithful can spend up to $1,500 to hear Castro address the party's Burdick dinner event.
It's virtual because of the pandemic, so you're making your supper whatever you might pay, but some ticket tiers earn you credit at the Democratic-NPL's online store, which is a real thing where you can buy merchandise including a Biden/Harris face mask.
So there's that.
Back to Castro.
He's an interesting choice for a political party that spends so much time telling us how moderate they are.
In North Dakota, the oil and gas industry contributes more than half of all taxes paid in the state. That's just direct tax payments, which doesn't include revenues from income taxes or sales taxes paid by oil workers.
Yet Castro made banning fracking part of his presidential campaign platform, something that would turn off oil and gas activity in North Dakota like somebody throwing a light switch. He's also opposed the construction/operation of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
The coal industry employs thousands and thousands of North Dakotans, both directly and indirectly, who also contribute mightily to our state's economy. Castro's hostility to fossil fuels like coal is so pronounced, he banned contributions to his campaign from people who work in that industry.
That's not where Castro's extremism ends. He also said he'd make illegal immigration, well, legal, and when Joe Biden disagreed with that position during a debate, Castro attacked Biden's mental competency.
I can't imagine it's easy for the Democratic-NPL to get high-profile speakers for their events. Politicians like winners, and there hasn't been a lot of winning for North Dakota's Democrats in recent years.
Still, the party whose members insist they're moderates couldn't find anyone less extreme than Castro for their last party fundraising event before the election in November?
Actions speak louder than words, my friends.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.