JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — ‘Peaches Help You Poop’

On my first trip to the grocery store, or to anywhere besides the recliner in my living room, after a 10-day hospital stay and 10 days of home confinement for treatment of a badly infected leg, I bought four peaches. California peaches, it said on the little label, not Georgia or Washington, the ones we prefer. But they were the first peaches of the year, and they were OK.

On a Sunday morning I set one out on the kitchen counter to peel and slice for breakfast. (Lillian likes hers with the peeling on, but the fuzzy stuff gives me the willies, so I peel mine.) And as Lillian walked by, she looked down and said, “Peaches help you poop.”

Well, without going into too much detail, I needed some help pooping, so I hoped she was right. My digestive system had been pretty much locked up as a result of the strong pain pills I had been taking to try to abate the horrible pain that goes with the leg infection, a malady called cellulitis.

We don’t have any idea how the infection chose my right leg, but I awoke four weeks ago today with my right leg — between my foot and my knee — bright red, swollen to half again its normal size and throbbing with pain. I saw a doctor that morning, and on Saturday was admitted to the hospital, where they could start intravenous infusions of antibiotics. (Try saying that real fast three times!)

I saw numerous doctors, had a tube running into my arm, took so many pain pills my brain was clouded half the time, and as pain pills can do, spent a lot of time sitting on the pot with no results. I lost my appetite, even though the hospital food wasn’t half bad. And as a result, I discovered I had lost 10 pounds when I weighed myself at home, so there’s one bit of good news.

But since June 4, pretty much all of my time has been spent in a recliner, with my right leg elevated, at the hospital or at home. I’m up and about now, on a still somewhat limited basis, and I have been tackling the weed patch that started out as a garden. Luckily, there was the Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney show on TV to help keep me entertained, and the Twins are having a pretty good year — leading their division going into the Fourth of July weekend. Been a long time since that has happened. If they can find some relief pitching, they might still be there on Labor Day.

So I pretty much missed the month of June 2022. Lillian, too, because she has spent the month at my side, foregoing her early summer activities. Thank God for her.

She spent a lot of worrisome nights in hotel rooms in in Fargo — although she did get to sample quite a bit of Fargo’s growing variety of cuisine — and she even drove back to Bismarck one day to fill out our absentee ballots and deliver them to the courthouse.

We’re Democrats. We vote. Although there weren’t very many others doing the same. The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party is a freakin’ disaster. There’s not much left of what was once a co-equal partner in governing our state. I drove by the Kennedy Center on Thursday, the party’s headquarters in Bismarck, on my way to the wine store — yeah, I’ve quit taking the opioids, so I can drink wine again — and saw there wasn’t a single car in the parking lot. In the days I worked there, the lot was always pretty much full in an election year. An empty parking lot is a bad sign.

I had plenty of time, lying in my recliner, to peruse Al Jaeger’s website and look at election results in the days after the primary election. Here are some things I learned.

  • There were Legislative candidates on the ballot in 33 of the state’s 47 Legislative districts, plus four subdistricts created in the reservation counties, about a dozen more than usual because a lot of district boundaries were changed by the reapportionment of the districts after the 2020 census.
  • In 14 of the districts and one of the subdistricts, the Democratic-NPL Party did not field any candidates for the Legislature, conceding more than 40 Legislative seats to the Republicans without a contest.
  • In nine more districts, the Democrats fielded only two candidates instead of three, conceding another nine seats to the Republicans.
  • Of the 66 total House seats on the ballot, Democrats fielded just 29 candidates.
  • Of the 32 Senate races on the ballot, Democrats had just 13 candidates.
  • That means that 56 Republicans will be elected to the Legislature this fall without opposition.
  • The total: Of the 98 total legislative seats up for election this year, Democrats will have just 42 candidates seeking those seats, just a shade over 40 per ent.

In the state Senate races, I’d give about eight of the Democratic-NPL candidates at least a 50-50 chance of winning. I won’t name them. They know who they are.

On the House side, there might be as many as 14 Democratic-NPL candidates who can win.

So, if I am right, the Democrats are likely to win no more than 22 of the 98 seats on the ballot this fall — probably fewer.


Now for a look at the Republicans. That would take a bit longer if I were to try to talk about everything that happened in the Republican column on the day of North Dakota’s 2022 primary election, and in the run-up to that day. The primary has generally been an inconsequential event in recent years, far different from the raucous days of the Nonpartisan League, when primary winners in the Republican column were headed for occupancy of whatever office they were seeking.

Well, guess what. History is repeating itself, with the rise of a significant cluster of conservative rebels who don’t really seem to have a real philosophical or practical agenda, who invaded district conventions with a bunch of their rowdy friends and stole the nominating process from the party’s establishment, or who petitioned some of their candidates into the Republican column on the Primary ballot.

Sound familiar to students of North Dakota political history? Yep, it’s the same strategy the League used to take over the Republican Party, and ultimately state government, a hundred years ago.

There are two significant differences between what the League did in the early 20th century and what Ricky Becker and his band of angry white men are doing in the 21st century: Money and Honor.

From 1915 until 1920, A.C. Townley and a small bunch of farmers, who’d been staring through the teller window at their bank trying to plead for a few months respite from debt so they could put in a crop and hopefully harvest it, drove the state’s dirt roads and section lines and collected $16 from their fellow farmers to put together a campaign to elect farmers and their sympathizers.

They did it by filing their candidates in the Republican column in the primary, defeating the Republican Party’s endorsed candidates, and then they succeeded in electing their candidates in the fall general election.

There’s some of that going on in the Republican Party here right now, on two different fronts, resulting in three pretty much separate branches of the Republican Party.  There’s the Establishment Republican Party, which controls all of state government right now — every executive office, huge majorities in the Legislature. There’s the Ricky Becker Bastiats, who claim a good number of legislators now and who succeeded in getting some of their followers on the November ballot via some takeovers of district conventions and  through the primary route. And there’s the Doug Burgum branch, owned by our megarich governor, who’s spent the past two elections pumping millions of dollars of his personal wealth into campaigns, not so much to elect friends but to defeat enemies.

Burgum’s efforts are mean and generally despicable. He had mixed results in the just-past primary, but he left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, and he’s sure to be back at it again in 2024, even if he decides not to run for a third term as governor.

That’s the money issue. Honor is another thing altogether. The Nonpartisan League’s motives were honorable — getting a fair shake for farmers. Today, the rebels inside the Republican Party don’t seem to have much in common with the NPL. For the most part, they’re a bunch of malcontents, aginners, and Trumpanistas. They’re noisy, they carry guns, and they don’t seem to have any consistent governing philosophy.

It’ll be interesting, and perhaps a little scary, to watch the 2023 Legislature to see how it shakes out. At least 80 percent of the legislators will have an “R” behind their name, but that’s about the only homogeneity we’ll see. They’ll be electing new leaders and jockeying for committee positions. I expect the 2023 session to be utter chaos.

Democrats won’t play a role in that session, but they’ll be well-advised to study carefully and begin planning for the first steps in their comeback next election. I’m pretty sure that’s when it is going to start. My old friend, Byron Dorgan, always said that politics in North Dakota is cyclical, and he’s been proven right so far. Democrats controlled the governor’s office, a number of statewide offices and good numbers in the Legislature for most of 30 years, from 1960 until 1992. Republicans have been in charge in most of those offices for the past 30 years. If Byron’s right, and Democrats can find some leadership, the worm can start turning.

Meanwhile, I’m back in the garden most mornings, I might get to golf and fish a little bit next week. I’m going to pay attention to the Jan. 6 hearings and Drew Wrigley’s tit-in-the-wringer situation, which seems to be adding to the division in his party. And I’ll keep hoping against hope that the Twins don’t break my heart again this fall.

I haven’t been able to sit in my office chair in front of my laptop screen of the past month because I’ve had to keep my leg elevated, so my blog space has been empty. But I was able to sit up long enough to type this, and in the next couple of days I’m going to share with you a really wonderful reunion story. 

As for the peaches, well, the jury is still out. I’ll let you know.

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