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Omdahl: Government Defies Type ‘A’ Personalities

By Staff | Sep 11, 2015

With the retirement of Governor Jack Dalrymple, the partisans are trolling for a standard bearer, even though we are no longer sure what standard to bear with guys like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump stretching the definition.

After enduring state government for some 30 years, I want to assure the electorate that I am not running for governor. I have started no exploratory committee or super PAC to stuff a war chest. The primary reason for my unavailability is that I have an “A” personality and North Dakota government has a “B” personality.

People with “A” personalities want action. When we are confronted with “B” personalities over long periods of time, mental disorders evolve, most prominently depression, sometimes panic disorder. (Bipolar is in Washington.)

North Dakota’s “B” personality is no place for someone who wants action. Being the most “status quo” of all state governments, North Dakota requires a mountain of effort to produce a molehill of results. It will drive “A” personalities mad.

Here is a case in point. Recent occurrences have demonstrated that the chancellor of higher education is not really a chancellor. On a lucky day, he is a commissioner. More often, he is a coordinator. Sometimes he is also a fireman.

The same is true about the governorship. In North Dakota, the word “govern” is not a verb. The governor is a coordinator; many times an observer.

Remember President Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II? This “A” person didn’t know when he was elected president that the federal government had a “B” personality.

In frustration, he contrasted the office of president with that of being a general with an observation something like this: “When you are a general, you order something to be done and it gets done; in the government, the president orders something done and nothing happens.”

Just look at the North Dakota organizational chart cluttered with 120 agencies, committees, sundry autonomies and 12 other elected officials, none of whom listen to the governor unless it is to his or her advantage. (I’ve been there.) The executive branch consists mostly of twigs. That’s “B” governance in spades.

The organizational chart is not to be confused with a chain of command. Authority has nothing to do with the chart. The chart’s only function is to hint at pay scales.

If the governor manages to get everyone in the executive on the same page, he goes to the legislative branch where more type “B” personality is displayed. The legislature moves by increments based on what it did before. Any new idea gets trashed in three consecutive sessions before it gets a respectable hearing. By that time, it has become an old friend.

Winning the governorship requires the vigor of a type “A” personality, especially when the bloggers pan your past for nuggets of scandal and broadcast the most damaging ones. There was a time when infidelity, drunk driving, wife beating and bankruptcies were never mentioned. Today, that’s the stuff of campaigns.

While a gubernatorial candidate for governor needs an “A” personality to win, the “A” qualities gets the winner into a “B” situation where inaction and frustration nurture mental disorders during the whole term.

I can’t tell whether or not Governor Jack got through his governorship mentally unscathed. In a few months, he may end up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because all of the windmills he charged are still standing.

So if you have half a mind to be governor, go for it. Even that will be honed down by the end of your term.

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