Open Letter to North Dakota Democrats

Lloyd Omdahl
Local Columnist

North Dakota has become a one-party state with little hope for the Democratic Party to rise out of the ashes like a phoenix and magically create a competitive two-party system.

Republicans have indisputable control of state government, holding the governorship and over two-thirds of both houses of the legislature.  Some would say the Democratic Party ought to subcontract its job to some organization that has an agenda, like the PTA, if we have PTAs anymore.

More:Common Good Now Requires 100% Support                                                                        

30% for President

With Democratic candidates racking up only 30% of the presidential vote, there is little light at the end of the tunnel.  In fact, there isn’t even a tunnel.

 It is time for the Democratic leaders to recognize that the party will be a minority for a long time to come. They need to develop a strategy for making a minority party effective even though its numbers may be few.

First, it needs to decide on an agenda for North Dakota. Exactly what would they like to offer North Dakota that the Republicans are never going to propose?

Some folks made fun of the Republicans for not drafting a platform.  Maybe that was not so dumb.  Democratic platforms create problems for candidates who want to win because so many of the planks are dreams beyond hope in the ultra-conservative climate gripping North Dakota at the present time.

More:North Dakota, a state comes of age

People more liberal

It may surprise some but the people of the state, though conservative, are less conservative than the folks running the state government.  If the people could be brought into the picture, incremental change could occur.

The Texas law on abortion would never survive a vote of the North Dakota electorate.  Remember that just a couple years ago we voted on a measure declaring life beginning at conception. It was defeated in the election.

Second, while Democrats can always whistle in the dark about electing majorities in the legislature, it is time to get real.  The Democrats can be equal to the Republican majorities by becoming  an organization for initiating their own legislation and referring legislation passed by the legislature.

 Initiative & Referendum

North Dakota has had the initiative and referendum for over 100 years and both “tools for democracy” have been used to initiate and refer all sorts of measures.  Texas voters are stuck because they do not have these options.

The reapportionment committee of the legislature is now meeting to draw new legislative district boundaries for the next legislative session and every additional session until a new census in 2030.

A fair legislative apportionment is important not only for balancing political power but for making democracy meaningful.

Democrats will not see a fair apportionment from the present committee.  The legislative committee will gerrymander the state to maximize the number of Republicans and minimize the number of the already minimized Democrats.

Gerrymanders Unchallenged

In the 2010 reapportionment, the legislative committee created five districts that failed the standard of compactness. It also provided for electing house members at -large in the senate districts, another subtle gerrymander. This apportionment went unchallenged by the Democrats.

When the legislature passes the malapportioned system in a few months, the Democrats could cut their teeth on the referral process and submit it to a vote of the people.  

There are other issues – reviving the tobacco tax, Native American poverty, the regressive tax system,  energy company subsidies and a whole slew of family issues.  All that is missing is political will.

There is no reason for the Democrats to settle for less than equality at the polls. North Dakota needs two viable parties.