Port: Politicians owe us reason, not obedience

A fallacy that many believe about representative forms of government, such as ours, is that our elected leaders are duty-bound to do whatever voters tell them.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong speaks to community members in Dickinson State University's Beck Auditorium in Nov. 2019. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

MINOT, N.D. — As the holiday season ended on Sunday, Congressman Kelly Armstrong announced that he would not be supporting efforts, backed by some of the most ardent Trump followers in his party, to meddle in the Electoral College vote.

Let's hope Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer follow his lead.

I posted a column about the news on my social media feeds and was immediately met with a wave of anger from MAGA die-hards' vocal faction.

Armstrong is a traitor, they claimed. A Republican-in-name-only. Many of the respondents suggested they'd be withholding their votes.

It was all a lot of sound and fury from a shrinking pool of Trump loyalists who can't accept that the lame-duck president is a one-term loser and not the political mastermind playing four-dimensional chess they thought he was.


The most interesting argument came from those who suggested that Armstrong was obligated to support this gambit because North Dakota is a Trump state.

Just about the Trumpiest state in the Union, in fact. The president received 65.5% of the vote in our state and captured every county but two (Sioux and Rolette).

How does that translate into a mandate for Armstrong to violate his commitment to ideas like federalism and the rule of law?

Armstrong's case for eschewing these ridiculous post-election antics is thorough and convincing for anyone willing to consider it.

The 12th Amendment clarifies that Congress has no authority to make judgments about the states' election laws. Of the six states where election irregularities are alleged to have taken place, five have Republican legislatures. Those legislatures, and not Congress, have a duty to iron out any problems with the way their elections were held.

Federalism means respecting the sovereignty of the states. Republicans such as Armstrong still believe in that sort of thing, even as the Trumpkins have abandoned conservative principles in favor of whatever might keep Dear Leader in power.

A fallacy that many believe about representative forms of government, such as ours, is that our elected leaders are duty-bound to do whatever voters tell them.

That's not correct. Elected officials owe us reason, not obedience. We can always cast them out in the next election, but a thing our nation's founders were afraid of, something they designed our system of government to avoid, was rule by the mob.


In Federalist 63 , James Madison warns of "particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn."

With no urging or mandate from any state in the union, Congress seeking to obtrude the vote of the Electoral College is something Republicans would come to lament.

Armstrong understands this, even if many of his constituents don't.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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