SUBSCRIBE NOW Get a year of news PLUS a gift box!

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Port: This video sums up the toxicity in North Dakota politics everyone is talking about

In another time, a party official behaving the way Lundeen did in that video would be censured by his party and perhaps removed from his leadership position in the party. The people of his district would feel shame. These times are not those.

PHOTO: NDGOP District 40 chairman and "We the People" rally organizer Jay Lundeen shouts in the face of Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner
NDGOP District 40 chairman and "We the People" rally organizer Jay Lundeen shouts in the face of Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson). (Screenshot from public Facebook video)
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — Reporter Jeremy Turley has an excellent profile of the growing toxicity in North Dakota politics coming, for the most part, from a rump caucus of the Republican supermajority.

The Bastiat Caucus , North Dakota's iteration of the Freedom Caucus in Congress , is an angry coalition of Trumpy populists and culture warriors who are not conservatives, in the traditional sense of the word, even as they insist that they are the only true conservatives.

(For more of what I'm talking about, read David Brooks' excellent essay in The Atlantic about this modern scourge on a proud philosophical tradition.)

I do have something to add to Turley's reporting, however. A period at the end of the sentence, if you will.

ADVERTISEMENT

It's just a few minutes of video that, while only an anecdote, is illustrative of the larger problem the people Turley interviewed are talking about.

The video was largely overlooked at the time it was posted. It has just 12 views as I copy and paste the embed code for this column. It shows Minot businessman Jay Lundeen accosting Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner in the hallway outside the state Senate chamber in Bismarck.

Lundeen is the chairman of the NDGOP's District 40 committee and an organizer of the " We the People" rally of Trumpists and anti-vaccination cranks held in front of the capitol building during last month's special session of the Legislature.

Lundeen, who appears to be doing an impression of Macho Man Randy Savage , delivers a rant into the face of the majority leader that was as rude and uncouth as it was incoherent.

Again, this is just an anecdote, but it's a defining one.

ADVERTISEMENT

For many self-styled conservatives in North Dakota and beyond, this is what passes for conservatism. Not reason tempered by tradition, but performative bullying. Coherence isn't important. Content isn't really a consideration. What matters, in this style of politics, is expressed rage aimed at victory through intimidation.

I thought it important to share this video clip because most North Dakotans aren't political nerds. They're people busy with family and careers and possess a limited amount of time for soap opera politics. When they read a piece like Turley's, they may understand only in an intellectual way what the people quoted therein are talking about.

I wanted to buttress that with something visceral.

Something you can watch.

In another time, a party official behaving the way Lundeen did in that video would be censured by his party and perhaps removed from his leadership position in the party. The people of his district would feel shame.

As things stand today, the antics of people like Lundeen are applauded by many. They see it not as juvenile and ultimately self-defeating, but a sort of bravery.

As if shouting in the face of a man who has served the state of North Dakota in elected office for nearly 30 years were something to be proud of.

It's not.

ADVERTISEMENT

Many think it is.

That, my friends, is the problem.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

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

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 rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
State spill investigation manager Bill Suess told Forum News Service the recent heavy rain and snowfall means the river is running fast and at a high volume, so the fertilizer will likely dilute in the water.
Shannon Roers Jones says the donations show the enthusiasm for her campaign.
Michael Standaert, who most recently was employed as a correspondent based in China with the Bloomberg Industry Group, was hired by North Dakota News Cooperative to work on in-depth stories for newspapers in the state.
Among other extreme stances, far-right candidate calls for imprisonment of political opponent