The delayed bills committees in the ND Legislature have released what bills may be considered during next week’s specials session. Ivermectin, vaccines, critical race theory, and election fraud are the primary focus of the House offerings. They’re many of the buzz words you’ve heard in the recent culture battles in our national politics. One takeaway from last night’s elections is the cultural battles are where many voters find themselves engaged.

The special session was called out of necessity to redraw legislative district lines and to appropriate the $1 billion dollars in federal American Rescue Plan dollars. There was concern from political observers the session had a chance of being hijacked with distractions. That appears to likely be the case.

ND politicians have routinely grasped onto national narratives and injected them into the state. Often, they can’t cite a single example of the issue taking place within our border. Doesn’t matter. This is because of a few reasons. First, a legislator is handed a boilerplate draft bill written by secretive special interest groups like ALEC who submit them to gullible lawmakers across the country. Second, some lawmakers have a lot of time on their hands and consume too much far-right media where this narrative is repeated around the clock and shared all over social media.

Here is the deal, last night’s election in places like Virginia proved yet again how effective that cycle is in modern politics. The concern of these issues – whether real or make believe – is high among enough voters. If that is where voters are, that is where you needed to have part of the conversation. It will be exhausting, especially for the made-up issues, but it can’t simply be ignored anymore. In pure politics, it seems policy doesn’t matter as much as cultural fights. Throw every policy initiative at them you want, if they aren’t hearing it because of the deafening sound of cultural battles, it won’t make a difference.

So, next week’s session intended to draw lines and spend money will be muddled by cultural battle distractions. Last night’s election results may give them an additional boost. Unfortunately, that will consume time, money, and energy from all involved. Sadly, that is where we are in American politics.

Tyler Axness
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