Many see the June 2020 primary as an example of extreme Republican intra-party fighting. I see it differently.
We Republican state legislators have different ideas on policies and programs. We run the gamut from strictly adhering to the Republican platform, to viewing it as a guideline. There is, however, a commonality: we are there because we want to serve the state and make it the best place possible.
In 2013 legislative spending really ramped up. I then realized that there was no group to turn to or bounce ideas off to try and be stronger on the party platform. A group was formed in which legislators could associate and discuss policies within the framework of the platform. All legislators were invited. The name given to the loosely-affiliated group of legislators is the Bastiat Caucus.
Over the years, there has been occasional squabbling between the Bastiats and the non-Bastiats (I want to say moderates, but that’s not fully accurate, since some conservative legislators simply prefer not to caucus with the group). Much like with siblings, that squabbling is entirely natural. It’s even healthy, for how can we get to the best outcomes if everyone simply agrees without challenge or discourse?
Enter Gov. Doug Burgum, and witness that the referenced “family squabbling” isn’t what took place in the June primary. In 2016 Burgum did not receive the Republican party endorsement, nevertheless he ran in the primary election as was his right to do. What I didn’t realize, was that his decision to break from party protocol was but a glimpse into his view of North Dakota politics.
He claimed he wanted to break up the “good ol’ boy’s club” in Bismarck, (which sounds good if one believes that a group of elected bureaucrats aren’t doing right by the citizens of the state), but it turns out Burgum wasn’t looking to do that. He was simply intending to take complete control. The “good ol’ boys” he was referring to was anyone who doesn’t conform to what he wants.
Burgum thinks of himself as CEO of North Dakota. The upside is he might be more likely to look for efficiencies of government, and to think “outside the box.” The downside, and what became clear in this election, is that he has no regard for the importance of the separation of powers, or his limited role as the executive. He has no respect for the process by which local people ought to be able to choose their representatives without intense manipulation by the executive. The root of the problem is that a “CEO” often confuses himself as “king.”
Sadly, through his PAC, Burgum dragged us through the mud with severe negativity and a daily bombardment of ugly mailers. He has shown that he cares nothing for the political process in general, and much less for his own party. He is a Republican by convenience only. North Dakota deserved better.
Becker, R-Bismarck, serves in the North Dakota House of Representatives.