Port: There are conservative 'grifters' in North Dakota, too

My fellow conservatives, we have to cut these people out of the movement. We have to wake up. Not only are the grifters harming our movement, but by extension, they're enabling the progressives.

Demonstrators hold signs Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, at the "We the People" rally outside the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Kyle Martin / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Hats off to Rep. Dan Crenshaw .

The Texas Republican, and former Navy Seal, has put the conspiracy caucus of the Republican Party on blast.

“There are two types of members of Congress: there is performance artists and there is legislators,” he told the crowd at an event put on by the Texas Liberty Alliance PAC. “Performance artists are the ones who get all of the attention, the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well. They know how to recite the lines that they know our voters want to hear.”


Sound familiar? Like, maybe a certain caucus of conspiracy-addled lawmakers in North Dakota's state assembly? More on that in a moment.

Crenshaw was directing his ire at "everybody in the Freedom Caucus — all of them."

“We have grifters in our midst,” he told the audience. “Lie after lie after lie, because they know something psychologically about the conservative heart. We’re worried about what people are going to do to us, what people are going to infringe upon us, that’s the nature of conservatism!”

Crenshaw's words are like radiation therapy for conservatives. They're not fun to hear. They make you kinda nauseous. They're also medicine aimed directly at killing the cancer at the heart of the conservative movement. The charlatans who prey on and exploit the well-warranted suspicions of conservative Americans harbor for big government.

These opportunistic politicians, aided and abetted by a host of conservative activists and media figures, are fleecing the conservative movement for their own notoriety and, in some instances, fiduciary gain.

And this is very, very relevant to North Dakota, which is something I discussed on today's episode of the Plain Talk podcast with Chad Oban:


The Freedom Caucus is a group of about 44 House Republicans. That we know of. The group doesn't disclose membership, officially, but some members have identified themselves publicly.

The Bastiat Caucus is a group of maybe 30 or so Republican lawmakers here in North Dakota. That group also doesn't disclose membership, though some of the members have identified themselves.

Like the Freedom Caucus , the Bastiats are, to use Crenshaw's words, performers and grifters. They aren't serious lawmakers. They definitely aren't leaders.

Were they ever to be in charge of a majority caucus in the Legislature, I'm not sure they'd have any idea how to govern. The bills they introduce are reactionary, based on whatever hot-button topics are trending on social media, and they're not crafted to become law so much as attract attention for the sponsors.

Case in point, Rep. Rick Becker , the founder of the Bastiat Caucus, introduced a deeply unserious bill earlier this year which would have denied pay to public officials if they implement any sort of a mandate or executive order curtailing commerce during an emergency. City managers and department heads, not to mention law enforcement leaders, would be asked to go without pay during an emergency. Becker's bill was prompted by the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while those policies were debatable, Becker's bill is hardly the solution to any perceived overreach by local or state government.

But then, it wasn't intended to be. Bills like that aren't introduced because someone entertainer like Becker expects them to pass. They're introduced to make a splash on social media, and maybe even regional headlines.

Serious policymakers on the right and left trade in outcomes. They promote a policy to address a problem, and hope the outcome is what they intend.

Performative policymakers promote a policy to get Facebook likes, and maybe get a talk radio interview that will be broadcast in between ads for conspiracy pillows and dodgy health supplements.


My fellow conservatives, we have to cut these people out of the movement. We have to wake up. Not only are the grifters harming our movement, but by extension, they're enabling the progressives.

Conservatism needs to be about serious policy promoted by serious people in pursuit of serious ideas.

The soap opera stars who populate the Freedom Caucus, nationally, and the Bastiat Caucus, locally, are never going to be part of that endeavor.

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

Opinion by Rob Port
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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