FARGO – The differences between competing political rallies in North Dakota is palpable. Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s last push before Election Day – former Vice President Joe Biden attending – was lively, filled with people from all races, and featured Indigenous music performed by the Turtle Mountain Drum Group.
Few people among the hundreds that attended “Bring It Home, Heidi!” rally on Thursday at the Fargo Air Museum wore hats. Parents held months-old babies and swayed to tunes from Roy Orbison and Billy Joel performed live by the Fargo band Blue English. They cheered. Some yelled “Heidi.” No one pointed to the press naming them the “true enemy of the people.”
Despite recent survey polls saying Heitkamp’s challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer, is ahead by more than 10 points, those present exuded hope for change.
In contrast, a non-white person was difficult to spot at President Donald Trump’s rally last summer at Scheels Arena in support of Cramer. One African American close to the front who stood in support of Trump was signaled out as an example during his speech. More than half the crowd wore made-in-China “Make America Great Again” hats, or T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “Drain the Swamp,” or “Suck it up Buttercup.”
Members of the media were pointed at angrily by Trump and by the crowd attending, and called an enemy of the people. One woman turned her back on Trump and was escorted away by security. The lines to both rallies were long, but one never mentioned the size of the crowd, the other exaggerated.
The primary difference between the political rallies is that one rally was missing the fear mongering rhetoric, the misnomers, and the political hatred; the other was not. One felt democratic, the other authoritarian.
“We all know in our gut that there is something different about this election,” Biden said. “I think the very character of America is on the ballot. We are in a battle for America’s soul.”
Will America fall prey to the phenomenon of fear and falsehoods, of race baiting rife with the politics of division? Biden asked. Or can American ideals of fairness, decency, respect, and equality be brought back.
“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal,” Biden said. His voice was hoarse from months on the campaign trail, he was suffering from laryngitis. “We don’t always live up to it, but we’ve never walked away from it, not like so many of our leaders are doing now.
“It [hope] is getting dimmer because of the way some people are playing this game these days. We are so much better than this. I also know the American people, the way we interact, the way we treat each other, what we share, what we post, we can and will overcome this moment, but only by being the very best versions of ourselves that we can be.”
Biden said Heitkamp, his friend, is a woman he would share a foxhole with. She is an independent and trustworthy voice for North Dakota, with the “backbone of a ramrod,” who once sued President Bill Clinton over an environmental issue.
“Not many folks in Washington that you can count on,” Biden said. “But Heidi always does just that. She does what is right, consequences be damned.”
Heitkamp enters the final week of her race to defend her Senate seat, and will be traveling across the state for the next four days in a bus emblazoned with her picture and “Bring It Home, Heidi!” on the side.
One of the major issues Democratic candidates are fighting for before the polls close is the Affordable Care Act and how a Texas federal lawsuit endangers the protections the law currently gives.
Josh Boschee, candidate for the Secretary of State, is running against Al Jaeger, and said that the one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that not even the GOP wants Jaeger in office. He was not endorsed by the North Dakota Republican Party until GOP-endorsed Will Gardner’s criminal history of being a convicted peeping Tom was exposed and he dropped from the race.
Kylie Oversen, one of the youngest elected politicians in the country and current candidate for Tax Commissioner, is running against Ryan Rauschenberger who pleaded guilty in 2017 for drunk driving after lying to the police, according to police dash camera footage.
Oversen, an attorney, said she will bring back respect, transparency, responsible tax policy, fiscal responsibility, and good work ethics to the office if elected.
Vying to take Cramer’s current spot in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mac Schneider, an attorney, is running against heir to family oil Kelly Armstrong, also an attorney.
Schneider stands against the current trade war, is adamantly against the Texas federal lawsuit threatening to make the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, and is opposed to corporate farming.
“Next Tuesday, Kevin Cramer is going down,” Democratic-NPL Campaign Director Tom Bryant said.
Former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad used to have Heitkamp’s current job, and said she has done more in her first six years than he did.
“And that kind of hurts my feelings,” he said, joking. “Heidi Heitkamp is no blank check for any President or party. The redhead gets stuff done, and that is exactly what we need in the United States Senate. Now, you compare that to her opponent, he says he is 100 percent behind the President. Really? He’s even 100 percent when he does stuff that hurts North Dakota.
“No senator should give up their vote for their President or their party.”
Heitkamp finds herself in the same spot she was in six years ago when the polls said she trailed Republican Chris Berg by 10 points.
“People don’t understand North Dakota, and how tough North Dakotans are,” Heitkamp said. “A lot of pundits have written us off. They don’t think we can do it. What do you think?”
“Yes we can,” the crowd said.
“We all have to make it clear this Tuesday that we will choose hope over fear,” Biden said. “We choose truth over lies. Folks, this country has to come together. We have to come together now; we can’t wait. It’s time to get up and remember who the hell we are.”
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