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Reality Check

| Letters to the Editor | November 12th, 2014

To the editor:

A post-election news article appearing in the online edition of The Forum contained the following assessment:

"Republicans have held power in the Senate since 1992 and in the House since 1984, enjoying a two-thirds majority in both chambers since 2010. They’ve also occupied the governor’s office since 1992 and currently hold all elected statewide offices and two of the state’s three seats in Washington."

In other words, North Dakota's Democratic-NPL Party has been out of power at the state level for decades. If the party’s plan for rebuilding continues to include the tactic of avoiding divisive issues—read, the environment—so that candidates can appear more "centrist," then I would argue that the party will endure many more election cycles yielding the same result.

Instead of doing the same thing over and over again but hoping for a different outcome, why not start standing up for the populist values of the N.D. Nonpartisan League?

The primary target of the NPL was the "trusts," out-of-state corporations (railroads, banks, grain elevators etc.) that ripped off farmers and others and sent profits out of state. There are plenty of corporations requiring closer scrutiny in the state today.

How about Continental Resources, Inc., Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, Hess Corporation, EOG Resources, Inc. Statoil Oil & Gas LP, Marathon Oil Company, XTO Energy Inc. (ExxonMobil), Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., Oasis Petroleum North America LLC, and Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Company, LP (ConocoPhillips). And those aforementioned companies are only the top ten of the top FIFTY oil producers in North Dakota's Bakken play.

How about TransCanada, Enbridge, Tesoro and a host of other pipeline companies.

How about North American Coal Corporation, Westmoreland Coal Company, BNI Coal Ltd., and Dakota Coal Company -- which is not a mining company, but rather, a financing and marketing arm of North American Coal, customers of which include Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

And therein lies the rub, doesn't it? Our much-loved cooperatives (including the North Dakota Farmers Union with respect to Measure No. 5 on this year's ballot) are behaving as badly as some corporations when it comes to protecting the status quo. And the rural electric cooperatives can get by with this hypocrisy by hiding behind union jobs such as those held by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who, when it comes to coal-fired power plants might as well be called blacksmiths because their jobs are equally anachronistic.

The Clintons perhaps perfected centrism, but it has served its purpose, and then some. Many centrists appear to be interested in winning for the sake of winning itself, not for serving the public good. A case in point: When the Affordable Care Act was working its way through Congress, Sen. Conrad -- who chaired the powerful Senate Budget Committee--had to be reminded that the party platform on which he ran included a plank supporting universal single-payer health care legislation, and at the very least, the creation of a government-run plan for insurance—i.e., the so-called public option. But despite the power he held in his hands as Budget Committee chair, Sen. Conrad said his hands were tied and that the public option was a non-starter.

Going forward, NPL-style populism will win the hearts and minds of voters. The history of populism is replete with candidates and officeholders willing to speak their minds. Speaking one’s mind, regardless of consequence, resonates with voters because the passion is genuine. Authentic.

The following paragraph appears in a recent piece titled "Debacle: Get Ready for the Real Fight" by Robert Borosage:

"There is a populist majority waiting to be forged. Majorities will rally for full-employment economics, for fair taxes on the rich and the corporations, investment in rebuilding the country and educating the children, strengthening retirement security, making college affordable, lifting the minimum wage, curbing CEO excess, empowering workers, guaranteed paid family leave, paid sick days and paid vacations, balanced trade to make things in America again, taking on the corruption of our politics by big money, investment in new energy and innovation that will create jobs and more."

My question is this: Is there enough NPL spirit remaining in the Democratic-NPL Party to fashion such a future?

-Dean Hulse

Fargo

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