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Omdahl: Time to go beyond partisanship

Omdahl writes, "Before Sen. Holmberg resigned and the scandal broke, just about every Republican in North Dakota praised his 44 years of effort on behalf of North Dakota and Grand Forks. Only time will tell whether or not they will consider his illustrious track record when rendering judgment."

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Well, we’re at it again. It seems that in the case of Sen. Ray Homberg, R-Grand Forks, many are rushing to judgment without knowing the circumstances of his sin.

According to former students, Holmberg was an excellent Grand Forks teacher. In addition to teaching, he served the State of North Dakota in the Senate for 44 years.

He was no ordinary senator. He took the challenge seriously and made every effort to put together a biennial budget that was fair to all parts of the state.

He had considerable influence on legislation, but it would be an error to call his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee as “powerful” because no one in North Dakota state government is allowed to be powerful. It takes tedious consensus building bigtime.

In North Dakota, consensus building is hard. Sometimes, even impossible. Success depends on bringing together dozens of private and public entities, requires extra hours and days of effort. This meant appeasement and compromise, skills that many legislators lack but Holmberg had.

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So after an illustrious civic life, Holmberg is going to burn at the stake. As a political scientist, I am concerned over the poisoning of the public well.

Embarrassing sins are always dredged up, usually out of context. This kind of treatment discourages a willingness of citizens to be a part of the process. In Bismarck and Washington, legislators are quitting because of the poisonous environment.

This happened to former Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota. A Harvard graduate who served in the U.S. Senate, he had been a writer for Saturday Night Live and did stand-up comedy. In that role and at that time, he did or said something that was not appropriate.

The flap forced him to leave the Senate after nine years of stellar performance.

Because we are human, I can guess that just about everyone in the Legislature or Congress has some embarrassing incident in his/her past. I have a couple. But that is also true about the electorate. Politicians are real people with the real weaknesses, just like the rest of us, but we don't give them any space.

We are in an era when government is evil and everyone in government is a crook or reprobate of some kind. Donald Trump’s rhetoric hasn’t helped.

On some occasions, we must rise beyond party and the partisan fray. Our history is cluttered with examples of political crucifixions.

Before Holmberg resigned and the scandal broke, just about every Republican in North Dakota praised his 44 years of effort on behalf of North Dakota and Grand Forks. Only time will tell whether or not they will consider his illustrious track record when rendering judgment.

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I have a difficult time believing that we should sweep this 44-year senate career unless it is some major chronic fault. It is common coin to believe that the punishment should fit the crime. Let us see the crime before mete out punishment.

Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

READ MORE FROM LLOYD OMDAHL
Omdahl writes, "In the two-house system, the legislators are always gaming the system to confuse accountability or avoid responsibility for their actions. There is too much buck-passing in the bicameral system."

Opinion by Lloyd Omdahl
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

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