The North Dakota Legislature has declared February 25th, 2019 as “Bank of North Dakota Day.” The resolution, sponsored by legislative leaders in both chambers and from both parties is to congratulate the BND on its 100th year. It passed the House on February 19th following near unanimous support in the Senate. Yet, on that same day, the NDGOP along with Governor Burgum took to social media denouncing “socialism” as “having no place in North Dakota.” Their actions and words seem at odds.
Let’s begin by looking at actions. A quick look at the legislation introduced in 2019 shows of the 23 bills introduced regarding the BND, 14 are pushed by Republican lawmakers. Democrats introduced 1. Bipartisan leaders from the chambers cosponsored 2, the remaining 6 were pushed by the BND, NDUS, or interim committees. You can search through all the bills related to the BND here.
It isn’t just resolutions celebrating the BND that North Dakota Republicans are introducing in the Legislature. They’re trying to create new and alter existing programs at the Bank. An example is pushing for the socialist BND to create a new skilled workforce student loan repayment program.
Time to look at their words. Governor Doug Burgum took to Twitter on February 19th to proclaim “Socialism has no place in North Dakota.” Burgum oversees the Bank of North Dakota as Chair of the Industrial Commission. Last year, as the BND entered its 100th year as being the only state-owned bank in the nation, and 14th consecutive year of record profits, Burgum sang a much different tune. In April of 2018, Burgum said, “The Bank’s refusal to ‘do business as usual’ is a shining example of reinventing state government. Their leadership and vision create economic development opportunities for individuals and communities in our state.” I wonder if Burgum or other state Republicans will hold a ceremony or release a statement to celebrate the Bank of North Dakota as proclaimed by the state Legislature?
Federally, Senator Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong commented as well. At least Senator John Hoeven chose to sit this one out. Hoeven is a former President of the Bank of North Dakota from 1993 to 2000. He went from being the Bank’s President to overseeing it as Governor on the ND Industrial Commission.
The public outcry from Republicans came after a Democratic legislative district social media account shared an opinion letter with the word “socialism” in it. If you have followed ND xPlains since it launched in December of 2016, you know I’ve continually urged Democrats to be moderate instead of veering further “left.” One of the first posts was “An Open Letter to the Democratic National Committee from a Rural Democrat” which received national scorn from the left, and praise from rural, moderate Democrats. In yet another post calling for moderation, “It seems to the left, a “moderate” is discouraged and shunned as a sellout of their convictions. To the right, a “moderate” is viewed as dangerous to their manufactured brand and must be identified as an outsider.” The bottom line, I believe there is a center looking for someone willing to be their champion that neither side has really focused on.
Let me also be abundantly clear. This is not a defense of “socialism” as an ideology. But after NDGOP members pounced on the topic while at the same time declaring a day of recognition for the BND, things needed to be pointed out. Suspect this is the early drumbeat of the 2020 campaign as spearheaded by President Trump. Will Democrats push further left? If so, will they be able to maintain enough support in the center?