Port: This video sums up the toxicity in North Dakota politics everyone is talking about
In another time, a party official behaving the way Lundeen did in that video would be censured by his party and perhaps removed from his leadership position in the party. The people of his district would feel shame. These times are not those.
MINOT, N.D. — Reporter Jeremy Turley has an excellent profile of the growing toxicity in North Dakota politics coming, for the most part, from a rump caucus of the Republican supermajority.
The Bastiat Caucus , North Dakota's iteration of the Freedom Caucus in Congress , is an angry coalition of Trumpy populists and culture warriors who are not conservatives, in the traditional sense of the word, even as they insist that they are the only true conservatives.
(For more of what I'm talking about, read David Brooks' excellent essay in The Atlantic about this modern scourge on a proud philosophical tradition.)
I do have something to add to Turley's reporting, however. A period at the end of the sentence, if you will.
In the span of a week, two North Dakota senators from opposite sides of the aisle cited toxicity in politics as part of the reason they won't seek reelection. Their impending exits should serve as a wake-up call, observers say. https://t.co/TcxopvgeHp— Jeremy Turley (@jeremyjturley) December 9, 2021
It's just a few minutes of video that, while only an anecdote, is illustrative of the larger problem the people Turley interviewed are talking about.
The video was largely overlooked at the time it was posted. It has just 12 views as I copy and paste the embed code for this column. It shows Minot businessman Jay Lundeen accosting Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner in the hallway outside the state Senate chamber in Bismarck.
Lundeen is the chairman of the NDGOP's District 40 committee and an organizer of the " We the People" rally of Trumpists and anti-vaccination cranks held in front of the capitol building during last month's special session of the Legislature.
Lundeen, who appears to be doing an impression of Macho Man Randy Savage , delivers a rant into the face of the majority leader that was as rude and uncouth as it was incoherent.
Again, this is just an anecdote, but it's a defining one.
For many self-styled conservatives in North Dakota and beyond, this is what passes for conservatism. Not reason tempered by tradition, but performative bullying. Coherence isn't important. Content isn't really a consideration. What matters, in this style of politics, is expressed rage aimed at victory through intimidation.
I thought it important to share this video clip because most North Dakotans aren't political nerds. They're people busy with family and careers and possess a limited amount of time for soap opera politics. When they read a piece like Turley's, they may understand only in an intellectual way what the people quoted therein are talking about.
I wanted to buttress that with something visceral.
Something you can watch.
In another time, a party official behaving the way Lundeen did in that video would be censured by his party and perhaps removed from his leadership position in the party. The people of his district would feel shame.
As things stand today, the antics of people like Lundeen are applauded by many. They see it not as juvenile and ultimately self-defeating, but a sort of bravery.
As if shouting in the face of a man who has served the state of North Dakota in elected office for nearly 30 years were something to be proud of.
Many think it is.
That, my friends, is the problem.
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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 .