Dorso Column: On Civility In Politics

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Today I wasn’t on the water. I found time to get IHEART Radio on my I Pad so I could listen to KFYR. It was interesting listening to former state Senator Heitkamp discuss the issues. Joel certainly knows how the process works as his interview with newly elected Senator Sinner illustrated.
What I found intriguing was that newly elected Sen. Sinner has so little understanding of how legislation can be influenced. As I watch Pres. Obama campaign while pushing his legislative agenda I wonder if Sinner went to that school of legislating. In my way of legislating you quit campaigning after you get elected. If Pres. Obama’s main objective is Democrats winning the next general election he is campaigning. I doubt that will solve the nation’s problems today.

The President likes to demonize the opposition and call into question their motives for the stands they take. I will digress here for a minute. Bob Woodward in his column and latest book makes it clear that the President initiated the sequestration now being debated. Now as Woodward points out he is moving the goal post by demanding tax increases. The tax issue wasn’t part of the negotiations leading up to the passage of the sequester legislation many months ago. The Republicans especially my friend Speaker Boehner accepted the deal and passed it never suspecting the President wouldn’t live with the deal he made.

Sunday on the talk shows Democrats defended the President by saying he won the election. With that win, they opine, he has the right to change the deal. That type of logic eludes me. At this point people wonder why or accuse the Republicans of stonewalling on the issue. In the real world of legislating you have to have some trust in the people you are dealing with. I for one always took Democrat Majority Leader Sen. Wogsland (who was on today’s show) as a man of his word. With that understanding between Senator Nelson, Senator Wogsland, Rep. Boucher and I we were able to have productive legislative sessions.

When trust is betrayed legislating becomes a very difficult task. I am not accusing Sen. Sinner of betraying a trust. I am calling into question his motives for saying some of what he had to say today. If you are dealing with oil and gas taxes one of the major players is going to be the producers. You don’t have to agree with them on the issue but alienating them won’t get you very far. In this case I think the bill’s sponsor; Sen. Cook has signified that he is open to amendments that will improve the bill. It serves little purpose to accuse the majority party of pandering to the oil interests at the expense of North Dakota education or other worthwhile causes. Those were the kind of arguments that made me cringe when former Rep. Pam Gulleson got to her feet. I know Senator Cook very well. I’ll bet his interest is not in giving gifts to the oil industry. He certainly can’t be accused of being an enemy of education. I would bet if asked Sen. Cook’s main interest is the long term viability of an industry that contributes hundreds of millions to North Dakota’s revenue picture.

If the Democrats in North Dakota’s legislature want to adopt the politics and style of the Chicago Democrat machine as it is being used in D.C. so be it. I hope the people of North Dakota recognize it for what it is.

The art of compromise as it is practiced in the legislative arena depends on mutual respect. Sadly that is not what we see in the U.S. Congress. Certainly our present President would rather beat the opposition into submission then find a mutual ground beneficial to the people of this great country. He has the bully pulpit. He can use it anyway he likes. Continuously accusing Republicans of caring more about millionaires then the country isn’t an approach that serves us well. Using the airways as a way to insinuate Republicans are beholden to oil interests falls in the same vein.
Mutual respect and a careful choice of words will get you a lot further then picking a fight.

In a posting last week on SAB I noticed that an angry exchange occurred on the floor of the house. I also noticed that an apology was to be had. It is my hope that apologies won’t be necessary in the future. Legislators treating each other with civility in the media or on the floor will serve North Dakota much better.

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