Port: The moderates have left the North Dakota Democratic party

Bernie Sanders’ fans finish the Fargo-Moorhead Women’s March by returning to the NDSU Memorial Union and chanting together on Saturday, March 7, in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — There is no question that, from one perspective, the North Dakota Democrats had an excellent night.

From another perspective, what was revealed in their caucus voting wasn't so good.

First, to the good.

Over 14,500 voters participated in the party's "firehouse caucuses" at 14 locations statewide. That's a big number, and one party leaders can tout this cycle as evidence of an enthused, engaged base of activists.

At least until the general election results come in.


Also, let's put this nonsense to bed. There was at least one viral post on Twitter claiming "voter suppression" in North Dakota because the Democrats had long lines at their caucus locations:

As someone who is frequently critical of the incompetence of the North Dakota Democratic Party, let me say that this is entirely unfair.

The biggest goal the party had last night was putting up a large vote number they can tout heading into the rest of the election year. They got their number. I'm sure they would have loved a bigger number. I bet those long lines were frustrating to them as well. Why on earth would they suppress their own voters?

The great thing about the internet is that it gives everyone an audience.

The worst thing about the internet is also that it also gives everyone, even ill-informed cranks, an audience.

Now to the bad.

Bernie Sanders won.


He won despite former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the only Democrat to win an election on North Dakota's statewide ballot in the last decade, endorsing Joe Biden .

He won despite former Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, not to mention former Congressman Earl Pomeroy, endorsing Joe Biden . Those three are, arguably, the most successful Democratic politicians in state history.

He won despite statewide polling of likely North Dakota voters showing a 67 percent unfavorable rating for Sanders .

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He won by a wide, 13-point margin too, 53 percent over Biden's 40 percent .

What this reveals is that a lot of moderates have left the North Dakota Democratic Party. They're either not participating in party activism anymore, or in many cases, I suspect they've become Republicans.

I would say that this shift to the left in the party will spell trouble for their ability to recruit and nominate candidates who can win on the statewide ballot, but it already has.


Again, Democrats have won just one statewide election since 2008, and that was Heitkamp's narrow 2012 Senate victory.

Last night the state party showed that they have a somewhat large base of activists who are engaged. That's good news.

The problem for them is that this base, and thus the party, is standing out in far left field when North Dakotans much prefer the center.

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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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