In an editorial for the Grand Forks Herald, opinion editor Tom Dennis takes a shot at some of you “extreme right wing” commenters who have been griping about the big money advantage Measure 2 opponents had, comparing the complains to ones liberals made after Scott Walker won in Wisconsin:
…diehard liberals aren’t the only ones who should stop denying and start understanding — if not accepting — the great currents of public opinion. Consider these comments that were made in the wake of Tuesday’s primary election in North Dakota.
On Measure 2: “The opposition spent huge amounts to garner the outcome that they desired, and they did win, but there will be a next time.”
On Measure 3: “It just goes to show how much money matters in these things.”
On Measure 4: “What is truly sad is that once again the big money told North Dakotans how to vote with TV commercials and radio talk show hosts.”
The comments were made on the conservative Say Anything blog, sayanythingblog.com, as true believers there wrestled with North Dakotans’ continuing rejection of the extreme right-wing line.
First, I’d reject the idea that Measure 2 was all that extreme. Measure 2 got a better percentage of the statewide vote than the Democrat Senate candidate (Tracy Potter) did in 2010. Would Dennis call North Dakota Democrats “extreme”? My guess is no.
Second, money obviously matters. If it didn’t, campaigns wouldn’t raise and spend billions of dollars nationally every election cycle. If you can drown your opponents out with a well-funded marketing campaign winning at the ballot box is a lot easier.
But political donations are an expression of political speech, and maybe if Measure 2 had more statewide support they’d have had more funds available to counter the spending by the unions and other groups in opposition.
Really, though, I don’t think Measure 2 lost because of money. Both sides had plenty of time to debate the issue. There were town halls held around the state which presented both sides of the argument, and most talk radio hosts did a pretty good job of getting both sides on the air. I like to think that this blog facilitated a good deal of debate about the issue too.
The fact is, we Measure 2 supporters lost the argument. Voters were swayed by the arguments (some would say fear mongering) about local control and skyrocketing sales/income taxes. Next time, we conservatives need to argue better. It’s as simple as that.
My guess is that the property tax reforms promised by Measure 2 opponents will be disappointing, or won’t manifest themselves at all, and perhaps that will be enough to wake voters up to the fact that under the present political leadership in this state, if they want real tax reform they’re going to have to do it themselves.