Friday Mailbag: Maxine Waters, extremist protesters, the Sober Ride program and squabbling inside the NDGOP

Answers to feedback from readers. If you have some feedback, send it to

People gather together at NDSU’s Memorial Union to celebrate the final guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Fargo. Chauvin is found guilty of the death of George Floyd. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — It's Friday, and we can all now head into the weekend confident that we'll soon be free of the yoke of statewide mask mandates.

Though not, I should note, local mask mandates which are still ok for some reason?

We live in strange times, my friends. Interesting, but strange.

As always, a lot of great feedback in today's mailbag. If you want to reach me, shoot your messages to Your submissions, if included in the column, may be edited for clarity and brevity.

Douglas writes, in response to my column criticizing Rep. Maxine Waters for her incendiary comments ahead of the Derek Chauvin verdict: "Typical right-wing false equivalency. Maxine W., whatever she says, does not carry the same weight as the POTUS who told his supporters to come to the Capital Jan. 6 'it’s going to be wild' and once at the rally, they were whipped up by various speakers with a finale by POTUS who urged them to march to the Capital. Whatever Maxine said is not even close. So weary of right-wingers making excuses for Trump."


You really have to work hard to accuse me of making excuses for Donald Trump . "It's no longer possible to be a Trump supporter and a patriot" is a headline I've written . I believe Trump incited the January riot at the Capitol, and I supported his impeachment for it. I was disappointed that he was acquitted.

I wasn't making a "false equivalency" when I invoked the example of Trump's violence-inspiring rhetoric in my criticism of what Waters said. I was consistent.

I wish more people engaged in American politics were willing to be consistent. Just as Trumpists supporters can't condemn Waters without reckoning with the Donald's own adventures with offensive statements, our liberal friends don't get to castigate Trump for his words while dismissing criticism of someone like Waters.

Darlan is also responding to my column about Waters: "Consider if Maxine Waters had just said be peaceful and protest. Then what if President Trump had said be confrontational and get in their faces and not say a word about being peaceful. Would you say Maxine is just as guilty of inciting a riot as President Trump?"

Thankfully, there were no riots after the Chauvin verdict, though many (including this observer) were afraid there might be. That's probably because the verdict went the way Waters and her supporters wanted it to go, which is no way an exoneration of Waters.

What she said was not only gas thrown on the fires of America's already too-divisive politics, but she jeopardized the very outcome in the trial she supports. Chauvin and his lawyers are going to appeal his conviction. While I don't think they'll be successful, Waters granted them a powerful argument, as did the jury, by rendering a verdict so quickly. They can say, not without merit, that the threat of violence over the jury delivering a "not guilty" verdict, or even just hanging on the question of guilt, was prejudicial and violated his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

I believe the jury reached the right verdict, but I'm not sure any of us should be content with the social and political environment that verdict was rendered in.

Steve writes, in response to my column about Minnesota calling for law enforcement aid from other states: "How convenient, but not surprising given your political leaning, that you failed to mention that according to the actual arrest records and the FBI, conservative white extremists and supremacists are also capable of the same thing."


Unfortunately, extremism isn't isolated to any one particular political party or cause. Steve suggests that I'm overlooking right-of-center extremism or somehow discounting it, but I would point to the mountain of columns I've written about the disgusting spectacle of Trump supporters attacking our national capitol building. An instance, I'd point out, of extreme elements within the Trump movement overwhelming the police force.

That's a real thing but not particularly relevant to the threat of violence around the Chauvin verdict.

What I want is consistency when it comes to condemning this stuff . Stop making excuses when it's people on your side of the political spectrum perpetrating the violence.

Jay writes, in response to my column about the success of North Dakota's Sober Ride program: "That sound you hear is me applauding your column today on expanding the [Sober Ride] program. The 'get tough' crowd are mostly frauds — I call it the "Wild Bill Hickok" complex (which is unfair to Wild Bill because when he wasn't a lawman, he tended more toward the outlaw side)."

I understand, even if I do not entirely condone, the "get tough" impulse, especially if we're talking about people who have been harmed by something like impaired driving. People who are permanently disabled because of an incident. People who have lost love ones. It's hard to begrudge them their anger.

But that impulse toward retribution is something to be resisted because it rarely makes for good policy. When it comes to impaired driving, our goal should be safe roads, not seeing how many people we can punish with fines and jail time. Remember, the legal limit for impaired driving is very low. You needn't be blackout drunk to violate it. Depending on your physiology, just a beer or two, or a single glass of wine, can put you over the limit.

That means we're arresting a lot of people who don't really have a problem with alcohol. They just made a terrible decision.

In March, the Sober Ride program used $10 vouchers for the rideshare company Lyft to get 800 presumably impaired drivers off of North Dakota roads. The total cost was around $8,000 , which, I have to tell you, is basically a rounding error in the tally of tax dollars we spend on drunk driving enforcement measures like saturation patrols, checkpoints, court proceedings, administrative hearings about driving privileges, etc., etc.


If we help people who have been drinking decide to stay off the roads and simultaneously keep them out of handcuffs and out of the criminal justice system, all while spending not very much money, isn't that a win for all of us?

John writes in reference to my columns about the internal strife in the NDGOP: "Just wanted to reach out and tell you your recent coverage of the battle raging inside the NDGOP has been spot on. You’ve really been able to capture the craziness of all of it and distill it down to the general themes in an understandable way. Keep up the good work."

I have to say, most of the feedback I get for that coverage is not complimentary. Many of my critics want me to stop calling myself a conservative, even after nearly two decades supporting conservative candidates and policymaking in our state.

This sort of intraparty squabbling is always difficult because it pits people who largely agree against one another. There are many North Dakota Republicans who are all-in on Trumpism and want to take the conservative movement and the Republican party down his trail of angry populism. Many others (and I would count myself among them) see Trump as an understandable manifestation of the anger many Americans feel, but also someone who represents much irresponsible policymaking and nearly all of the worst impulses of politicians.

It's an important debate but, again, not an easy one to have.

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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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