Port: On Doug Burgum and conservatism

Does anyone think Burgum would have any problems getting himself re-elected in the 2024 election cycle if he chooses to run for a third term?

Gov. Doug Burgum delivered his 2021 State of the State Address, reflecting on the progress and historic challenges of the past year and calling for bold action and investments in infrastructure to position North Dakota for an even brighter future. Kyle Martin / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — Gov. Doug Burgum is a sellout.

A secret liberal.

A camouflaged progressive.

A closeted Democrat who, when he first ran for office in 2016, only affiliated himself with the Republican Party and Donald Trump because that's the sort of thing you have to do to get elected in North Dakota.

Or maybe he's exactly the sort of pragmatic, right-of-center policymaker North Dakotans have always preferred. Someone who very much values low government burdens, light-touch regulation, competent administration, and isn't all that interested in the culture war.


A traditional conservative, in other words, as opposed to the Trump-era iteration of the ideology.

Burgum is taking it on the chin from some quarters after high-profile vetoes of some bills that were the darlings of a faction of very Trumpy North Dakota Republicans who see themselves as the arbiters of conservatism.

Which, using the modern definition of that word, means they are endlessly preoccupied with political initiatives calculated to upset liberals, whether they make for good public policy or not.

Burgum said no to restrictions on transgender student-athletes in North Dakota's K-12 programs.

He said no to a ban on mask mandates .

This has elicited howls of derision from certain quarters of social media where self-styled conservative paragons — people who apparently see no contradiction between the limited government philosophy and using government to impose their preferred cultural outcomes — are accusing Burgum of being a traitor.


Given North Dakota's very Republican voting proclivities, these folks have convinced themselves that they represent the majority in our state.

What Burgum is betting is that they aren't.

I think he's right.

Does anyone think Burgum would have any problems getting re-elected in the 2024 election cycle if he chooses to run for a third term?

Does any serious, informed person think Burgum would have a bit of trouble getting re-elected right in this very moment?

The NDGOP has dominated state politics since the early 1990s in part because our state's Republicanism — starting with leaders like Govs. Ed Schafer , John Hoeven , and, yes, Doug Burgum — has been very practical.


What our state's Republican leaders largely haven't done is succumb to the pressure to turn governance into the practice of placating the culture war demands of Fox News' primetime lineup or the fickle Facebook mobs.

Our state's Democrats and liberal observers, and certainly its Trumpiest citizens, see the NDGOP's dominance here as a product of culture.

That's a mistake.

They don't understand, or, at least, they won't admit that the sustained success of the NDGOP is rooted in the sort of leadership that eschews knee-jerk politics in favor of competent governance.

Culture war initiatives make big headlines and drive many public comments, but what wins elections here (thank goodness) is still prudent budgeting and canny administration.

Burgum understands that. His critics, for the most part, do not.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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