If Only All Politics Were Local

In the Bismarck Tribune today columnist Ken Rogers asks the question, “Are all politics still local?”

He asks it in the context of the 2012 election cycle, noting that Rep. Rick Berg (who is running for US Senate) has taken a different tact from other North Dakota politicians like Senators Kent Conrad (who Berg hopes to replace) and Senator John Hoeven. What Rogers puts his finger on is the disconnect between popular opinions about national politics among North Dakotans (the government is wasteful and spending should be cut) and how they feel about federal spending on North Dakota (farm subsidies are good, etc., etc.).

It’s not an issue that’s unique to North Dakota. It’s the NIMBY attitude as applied to the federal budget. Federal overspending is bad, unless it’s being spent in our direction in which case it’s really, really good.

I don’t know to what degree Rick Berg has really moved away from that, I haven’t spent a lot of time studying it, but he does seem to be emphasizing it less that North Dakota’s representatives in Washington DC have in the past. Senator Kent Conrad, for instance, was a master at railing against budget deficits at the national level only to pivot on a dime and demand more federal money for North Dakota.

If that sort of hypocrisy is Mr. Rogers’ notion of politics being local, then give me none of it. I’m not interested in it.

What North Dakota needs, what every state in the union needs, is more local control. We need North Dakota leaders empowered to solve North Dakota problems. Our state leaders are more accountable to us than anyone serving in Washington DC. Our farmers shouldn’t have their success hinge on what’s in the next federal farm legislation. Our businesses shouldn’t have to worry about their business models being derailed by new federal health care mandates. Our energy producers shouldn’t have to worry about the EPA shutting their operations down based on ridiculous, cosmetic environmental standards.

We need the federal government put back into the constitutional box our founders created for it.

Sadly, the notion of “local politics” embraced by Senators Conrad and Hoeven (not to mention Senator Byron Dorgan and Rep. Earl Pomeroy before them) has fed the growth of all-powerful federal government that has undermined the ability of North Dakotans to govern North Dakota for themselves.

If Rick Berg is bucking that trend, he’s got my vote.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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