All the Republicans are going to win.
All the ballot measures are going to lose.
If I were a betting man, and I could find someone to take the bet, that would be the one I’d make.
Okay, not all the Republicans in the country, or even the state. Just the ones running for statewide office in North Dakota. And most of the Republicans running for the North Dakota Legislature. Maybe one or two ballot measures might squeak through. But most of them will, and should, lose.
Just another ho-hum election. In spite of millions of dollars being spent on this campaign, not much will change in North Dakota as a result of the voting this year. The Constitution and the Constitutional Office-Holders and the Legislature will look pretty much the same next Wednesday as they do today, a week before the election.
Supporters of various causes and interests are going to take five whacks at changing the North Dakota Constitution next Tuesday, My guess is that all of them will fail. North Dakotans love their Constitution, and don’t tolerate much change in it.
Measure 1 is the right-to-life crowd’s nebulous language about, well, the right to life. It boils down, mostly, to anti-abortion versus pro-choice personal—very personal, the pro-choice people say—feelings on a woman’s right to have an abortion. I’ve always believed that North Dakota is a pro-choice state, willing to forego religious dictates about abortion in favor of keeping the government’s nose out of our personal lives. Nobody really wants an abortion, or wants their wife, mother, sister or daughter to have one, but I think most North Dakotans want that choice left up to an individual woman, not to the government. We’ll see next Tuesday.
Measure 2 is just downright goofy. It is on the ballot as a result of a resolution introduced by 11 Republican Senate and House members, kind of on behalf of the North Dakota real estate industry. It says that we can’t levy a tax on the sales of property. Thing is, we don’t, do that, we never have, and we never will. It’s a solution looking for a problem. If it fails, we won’t see a rush to introduce a bill to tax real estate transfers. That’s the same thing that will happen if it passes. Friend of mine asked me this week where this idea even came from. A few people sitting around having coffee, looking for a feel-good way to say we don’t want to increase taxes? Probably. Well, now we’re going to vote on it, and you have to vote “Yes” to stop any such tax from happening. We’ll see if voters can figure that out. Or if they even care enough to vote on it.
Measure 3 is a bad solution to a problem that does exist. We have a dysfunctional State Board of Higher Education. House Majority Leader Al Carlson has built a career criticizing higher education officials in North Dakota. So he wrote this measure which proposes to abolish the state board in favor of a dysfunctional three member Commission of Higher Education. Our state board is bad, but not THAT bad—not bad enough to convince people this is a good idea. Better we replace the guy who appoints the Board of Higher Education members, as soon as possible.
Measure 4 basically guts our state’s initiated measure laws, and North Dakotans hold those rights sacred. It’s a power grab by the Legislature. And even though most North Dakotans are going to vote to re-elect their current Legislators, my guess is that this will lose by the biggest margin of the constitutional amendments. Go figure.
Then there’s the fifth constitutional measure, Measure 5. Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks. The most “feel-good” ballot measure title ever in North Dakota. Who could possibly be against clean water, wildlife and parks? Well, my guess is more than half of the North Dakotans who will vote in this election, that’s who. I’ve written about this before. Lies and the lying liars who tell them, to quote United States Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota, will take this one down, along with the sad campaign run by the measure’s supporters. Just last week, in a big postcard in my mail box, and this morning, in another letter to the editor, the Chamber of Commerce and Big Oil are saying that $4 billion will go to out of state conservation groups to buy land in competition with young farmers, and taking money away from roads and schools and police protection. Lies, all of them.
Big Oil is spending a million dollars to try to defeat this measure. I’m still a little puzzled why they are doing that. As far as I can tell, the oil industry has no dog in this fight. Nothing that might happen if this measure passes will affect them. What it boils down to, I guess, is they are just being good friends to their buddies down at the Chamber of Commerce. The money really means nothing to them—it’s pocket change for that industry. As for the Chamber of Commerce, they just don’t like “green” people. In their minds, environmentalists, conservationists, have always just been anti-business, so the Chamber is against whatever they are for. Never mind that hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers, boaters and campers spend most of their discretionary money at Chamber members’ businesses. Sheesh.
But as I said before, the proponents of this measure, the hunting and conservation groups, have just rolled over in the face of that attack. They keep running sunshine and roses commercials, telling us how wonderful this measure is (and they are right about that) without fighting back against the pervasive dark forces hammering the shit out of them day after day. Let me put it in a way those guys can understand.
Suppose you are out in Montana hunting deer. You’ve spent a ton of money on your new Suburban, bought a new rifle, loaded up with expensive ammunition, hired the best outfitter in the state to lead you through the hunt, and are thoroughly enjoying a fine day fall day in the Rocky Mountains. You get separated from your guide for a while, come around a bend in the trail and are confronted by a grizzly bear. He comes roaring toward you, intent on making you supper. Now, you have two choices. As he comes running toward you on the trail, you can say “Wow, I’ve always wanted to see a grizzly bear up close. This is really cool. What a great guide I have, he’s taken me right up to a grizzly bear, face to face.” So you just sit down against a tree, marvel at the size of that bear, and let him rip you to shreds.
Or, you can raise your rifle and start pumping lead into that critter, and when you run out of ammo you grab your knife and start slashing, fighting back with every ounce of your will, because you came there to get an eight-point muley, not get eaten by a grizzly bear.
Well, Measure 5 proponents chose the first one. They decided not to fight back. Which is why, I think, in addition to the disgusting campaign run by that big grizzly named Harold Hamm, they are going to lose. They had every opportunity to spend their three or four million dollars fighting back against the lies of Big Oil and the Chamber. Frankly, it wouldn’t have taken much.
“Why does Big Oil oppose conservation in North Dakota?”
“Why is Big Oil spending a million dollars to keep you from having the best parks in America?”
“Big oil companies from out of state are spending a million dollars so they can continue to pollute your water and destroy your wildlife habitat.”
“Let’s send a message to the big out-of-state oil companies: You can’t buy an election in North Dakota.”
“North Dakotans want clean water, healthy wildlife and good parks. Why are the big out-of-state oil companies against North Dakotans?”
“Let’s tell the big out-of-state oil companies to keep their noses out of North Dakota politics. Vote Yes on Measure 5.”
Or something like that.
I ran into an old hunting buddy of mine the other day. We first hunted together in the late 1950’s, with our dads. He’s as conservation-minded as anyone I know. I might have expected him to be a supporter of this measure. And he probably would have been one. Except for one thing: “It doesn’t belong in the Constitution.” He’s one of the many thousands, I fear, who will vote against it because it puts too much detail into the Constitution. Everything else being equal, that is the fatal flaw in this measure. A statutory measure to increase the funding in the existing Outdoor Heritage Fund and allow for perpetual conservation easements to keep farmland as farmland, and habitat as habitat, probably could have passed, in spite of the dirty campaign against it. My old hunting buddy could have voted for that. He’s for the deer, and the pheasants, and the ducks that could be saved by a massive state CRP program. Me too.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I have to eat these words. But I am afraid I’m right. Darn. No, Damn!
Measure 6 will lose because it is sponsored by a bunch of goofballs with a personal agenda. Measure 7, which will bring $4 prescription medicine to North Dakota (yeah, right), will lose because North Dakotans still have old-fashioned sentimental for value their hometown businesses.
Measure 8 just might pass. I’ve seen polls, going back to my Tourism Director days, that say most North Dakotans would prefer that school start after Labor Day. “In my day, we started school the day after Labor Day—it was a tradition—and ended school the Friday before Memorial Day—another tradition—and we turned out all right, didn’t we? Kids get too many silly little breaks from school during the school year these days. We got out for Teacher’s Convention, two weeks at Christmas, and Good Friday. Worked for us.”
Tomorrow: A look at some of the head-to-head races on the ballot.