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Omdahl: Are ND Congressmembers Snubbing Political Ideology?

By Staff | Nov 13, 2015

North Dakota is a very conservative state. At least, that’s what the statistics say. The voting behavior of our Congressional delegation, however, casts doubt about this observation, statistics and research notwithstanding.

As Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic candidate for president, said: “Let’s look at the record.” I wasn’t in the audience but that sounds like good advice. So let’s look at the record.

North Dakota is represented by one member in the U. S. House of Representatives, Kevin Cramer, who was supposed to be so conservative that he waltzed at the Tea Party. It was a political version of “Dancing with the Stars”.

In the U.S. Senate, John Hoeven carries the conservative flag for centrist Republicans. And then we have Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who is assumed by both Democrats and Republicans to be a liberal of sorts.

One of the first big issues confronting this reconstituted delegation concerned tightening background checks on folks buying guns. On this conservative issue, Cramer voted nay, Hoeven voted nay, and Heitkamp voted nay. Democrats wondered where their liberal went. So did Republicans.

Then there is (or was) the Keystone pipeline. With the catastrophic drop in oil prices, the sponsors have lost their enthusiasm for the project but conservatives are determined to show their colors by pressing on.

When President Barack Obama vetoed the project, Cramer cried foul, Hoeven agreed, Heitkamp joined in, and they all vowed to override the President.

Next, the U.S. Postal Service proposed cutting its losses by eliminating marginal post offices across the state. All three members of the delegation came out against the plan, even though it meant continued inefficiencies and public costs – an abhorrent situation for any real conservative. But, unabashedly, conservatives Cramer and Hoeven joined Heitkamp on the issue.

Then the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the cutting of polluting emissions by the coal-fired power plants in North Dakota. On this issue, a liberal would have supported the EPA but Heitkamp complained as loudly as the two alleged conservatives.

The same scenario was repeated when the EPA proposed to broaden the agency’s jurisdiction to include all collections of water. Once again, the whole Congressional delegation shouted “nay” in unison.

A recent issue was funding crop insurance. In the budget deal, $3 billion was put back in the program and the whole delegation turned into a bunch of liberal spenders.

Looking at the record, Al Smith would ask: Doesn’t North Dakota have any real liberals or conservatives in Congress?

The 2012 election of Heidi Heikamp in the seismic shift to the right forewarned us of this strange voting by the Congressional delegation. For one thing, Heitkamp came across as the incumbent and North Dakota voters including Republicans – like incumbents. Some voted for her.

But that isn’t explanation enough. Her election and this unified voting in Congress demonstrate a high degree of nonpartisanship in this conservative state. That sounds paradoxical because it is.

The unanimity of the Congressional delegation suggests that ideology is not important when critical issues are at stake. On such occasions, it is important to rise above ideologies.

This unanimity really bugs Republicans. They just wish that Heitkamp would be the liberal they know she is so they can beat her in the next election. But is she a liberal?

The Democrats are frustrated because budget-cutting Cramer and Hoeven aren’t voting against federal spending so their true conservative ideology can be exposed. But are they conservatives?

Maybe our ideas about representative democracy have something to do with disregarding liberal and conservative ideologies. After all, it’s the job of a Congressional delegation to represent the people. Maybe that’s what they are doing.

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