The simplest description of HB1427 is this metaphor: imagine a dog p*ssing on the Constitution in front of your war-hero grandfather. Hundreds of people showed up to a rally in Fargo on Groundhog Day to rightfully oppose that concept.
People of many creeds and colors, tongues and towns showed up for this rally against this bad bill. Everyone had their reasons: family, business, solidarity. A map of pins showing attendees' ancestry filled every inhabited continent quickly.
Ostensibly HB1427 is about responsibility in a time of self-inflicted state budget crisis, but really it is straight from the Commissioner Dave Piepkorn playbook. Take something Dave doesn't understand, like Muslims or science or spelling or whatever and disguise it in "fiscally conservative" language.
The thought process is to spend dwindling state resources studying "absorptive capacity" of our infrastructure. That if our hospitals and clinics have long waiting lines, that if our roads are jammed, that if our social services or police or fire departments are overworked more than usual, that the Governor can to stop the free movement of people into our communities.
The bill doesn't demand data on the positive effects of immigration in a state with near zero unemployment, where our hospitals struggle to find talented employees or even untalented ones for that matter. It doesn't question capacity needs of our infrastructure should oil ever boom again. It's blatantly designed to score points with Craig Cobb's fan club.
The thing that makes a thought process behind a bill like this especially Piepkornian is that it's not a thought process at all. What is the opposite of thought? I'd say Zen, but that exceeds the commissioner's absorptive capacity. Occam's Razor suggests that Piepkorn is up for election next year and rumor has it he'll run for mayor and he saw an opportunity in President Trump's racist rhetoric to repeatedly bash his own face into a lectern for hack media attention. The nine sponsors of HB1427, however, have no obvious ulterior motive. They're intentionally less intelligent and more cruel than our most pugnacious commissioner.
The free movement of people is not only enshrined in our constitution, it's part of the bedrock of human rights. Good men took fatal bullets in World War II so others could live to declare this universal right. There are a million reasons politically and economically why basic rights matter but one need only consider their moral correctness and stop there.
Instead, we live in an America where cowards afraid of the way people dress, afraid of fabric, write laws to divide us from one another. The closest people like Dave Piepkorn have been to war is a long night on the toilet with food poisoning. They know nothing, absolutely nothing, of human suffering except for the suffering they inflict on people with less power.
Governor Doug Burgum, outmatched only by Jack Dalrymple in inability to effectively advance an agenda despite a powerful position, isn't the leader of the state GOP, not by a long shot. It's apparent because Microsoft, the company that launched Burgum from wealthy farm kid to wealthier technocrat, opposes this sort of nonsensical immigration stance.
While Burgum publicly aligns with President Donald Trump's conflation of refugees and illegal immigration, it doesn't matter what he thinks (or more accurately what his expensive pollster tells him to think) because everyone knows house majority leader Al Carlson runs the state government. There are no checks, no balances. Carlson holds a super-supermajority veto override power. Nothing happens in Bismarck without Al's stamp.
Therefore, Al Carlson wrote HB1427.
Of course, not personally. His name isn't on it. He's not dumb enough to leave fingerprints. He leaves the fallout from these sort of shameful, knee-jerk bills to genuinely stupid members of the legislature, people like Janne Myrdal, who's cowering from the press after posting Nazi propaganda online or the Koppelman halfwits or the Roers-family rejects who had to run screaming from a thinly veiled anti-porn bill or the sadly too-numerous members who'd fall for the simplest soap with a prize grift and who are no match for the long con Carlson's run since 1992.
A cottage industry of blogs like Mean Read and Dogwagger subsist almost entirely on a Congress that for 80 days every two years does its job as ineptly as possible, which regularly leaves us, the people, to right legislative wrongs through initiated ballot measures and expensive court battles. Carlson knows that attaching your name to a dumb idea like fetal personhood or a litany of other controversial bills draws enough firepower to lose a seat. Just ask Betty Grande or Margaret Sitte, who've fallen off the political map.
To Carlson's credit, he knows how to manipulate useful idiots. He's smart about his power, which is why he's had it for so long. He's only got half of P.T. Barnum's circus management skills but where he lacks Barnum's conniving charm, he more than makes up for in filthy, thieving used car salesmanship. The man knows how to sell a lemon.
With the Dem-NPL in state offices utterly decimated, Carlson, being an attack dog who only knows one vicious skill of capturing power from the opposition, has nobody left to attack but his owners: The people of the state of North Dakota. You and me, buddy.
Which is why he's trying to kill overwhelmingly popular ballot measures like medical marijuana or Marsy's Law, why he keeps pushing for new rules to make it harder for you to unravel his constant mistakes via initiated ballot measures and why he insists on making it harder for you to vote.
It's why Carlson wants to kill HB1386, an anti-discrimination bill introduced session after session that has the potential to make some people's lives just 5% better. He doesn't want the state to pay its share of elderly care. He wants the elderly to match federal funding for him. So, he'll tax the elderly and their families, but not the oil companies.
Not even police and firemen get a helping hand from the Carlson Congress. He despises you. Personally, you. If you voted for him, especially you. That is his default nature. He takes pleasure in creating myriad hardships so families can't win. If you protest these things, he just passed a bill that would let his vigilante posse murder you for even the mildest inconvenience caused by your dissent.
He is a small man filled to the eyes with contempt for everyone around him. Everyone in Bismarck lives in constant fear of this deranged old man.
HB1427 works as an attack on some of our community's most vulnerable in part because it's a distraction from real issues we desperately need the state government to fix. Our counties, in the throes of an opioid crisis and despair manifested in crumbling infrastructure, a public education system hanging by a thread, an aging and growing-sicker population, dangerous workplace environments that kill and maim, the list goes on forever. It blames the ills of our community on our community members instead of on those in political power who systematically put our capital in their own pockets and return nothing to us.
"Absorptive capacity" is something the state wholly controls by way of hostile underfunding of service capacity. If they don't pay for necessities, they can shift the blame on a segment of powerless users of those necessities.
Republicans who control every aspect of government think giving away tax money in exchange for campaign contributions is worth the damage to our cities, our farms, our hunting lands and our waterways. This bill shifts blame to the few people fleeing war atrocities. HB1427 is a trap that isn't well hidden.
While good old boy Al has never been a visionary, he's nevertheless losing his sight. He's become blind to what's awakening across the state. The people have had it with him and are ready to put him down.
What I learned at this rally was that refugees and immigrants maybe aren't as vulnerable as people assume, at least not many of them. The speakers had nicer things to say about America than I could ever say. They have eloquence and fight and love for this city and this state and this country despite seemingly everything telling them they should not. They may even love this country more than you or me or certainly more than our worst representatives because New Americans appreciate the fact that the world can be lot worse than whatever Al Carlson could imagine. They're everything we deserve in community leaders. I hope a few of them run for office. I offer them my full-throated support.
The other thing I learned is this revolution isn't steeped in bitter hatred of oppressors. It's celebratory of what makes us powerful. People have a lot of reasons for their exuberance. Better food, for one. But also that the constant attacks on these communities have shown us all that we have more solidarity than ever.
There are two paths to power: money or people. As it turns out, we have the people. We're partying here, folks. These Bhutanese dancers are adorable. There's nothing more revolutionary than people who clearly see a better future in front of them, who will smile and whistle their way toward it.
Writer’s note: The morning after this protest, HB1427 was converted to a research study and effectively buried, presumably next to Rep. Al Carlson's spine.
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