TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Legislators Are More Extreme Than Their Constituents

Ah, we meet again, as many of us have since 1991. Remember the ‘Sixties warning — don’t trust anyone over 30? What would they say about someone who’s been “opinionating” longer than that (and, in the process, inventing words)?

I often have a mental lineup of topics I want to cover. Despite advice from some in the beginning that I should pick a lane — humor or human interest, however, I opted for emotional authenticity. I have to write what I’m feeling every week. I can’t fake it.

This week, I’m pissed. Disappointed. Embarrassed for the state I love, the state I came home to after years of traipsing about. I’m a child of the prairie. I’ve got dirt under my fingernails, grain dust in my hair and something on my boots.

I’ve kidded before that collectively, our blood pressure rises in North Dakota every two years when the Legislature’s in session. But it’s a fact because there’s been a hard turn away from serious problem solving to mean-spirited, holier-than-thou oppression that this year is brutalizing our LGBTQ community. There’ve been more than a dozen such bills filed, some spiteful, most flat-out ignorant.

Do we really have to police kitty-litter?

LGBTQ — those letters of the alphabet represent friends, children, members of our community from business to government to the pulpit, where they’ve always been. When it comes to society, can’t we live and let live? It’s the most American thing ever. It’s how most of us were raised. How many times did you hear it — “Mind your own business.”

If you’re a drag show participant, who cares? Farmers have been doing it for fundraisers for years, and somehow we survived the societal threat.

I may not personally understand homosexuality or gender fluidity, but it’s none of my business any more than your religious beliefs. If someone wants to be addressed by the pronoun of their choosing, can’t we offer them the same common decency and respect we would anyone else?

In America, are we not allowed to be who we are? A little humanity, please.

We have bills pending that would infringe on free speech, personal freedom and censor cartoon sex education books and art. Our Legislature’s becoming the extremist nanny state they’ve always railed against. It’s emotionally manipulative. And illogical. Exploitive of shallow thinkers, and boy, there are plenty of those. Save the children! Right. You’re going to stop them from checking out a book. Meanwhile, there’s the internet. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Everything’s out there for any kid with a phone. C’mon. It’s up to parents to guide their children just as it’s always been.

These divisive nanny-state bills are boiler-plate documents from political organizations that use division as the means to power. Demonize the minority. Pummel the vulnerable. Promote hate. But I don’t think that’s who most of us are. Based on recent elections, you could argue that 70 percent of North Dakotans vote Republican. Yet, voters approved medical marijuana and shot down extremist abortion legislation.

While seven  out of 10 North Dakota voters may be Republican, in the Legislature it’s 90 percent. That in itself is not reflective of their constituency. The malicious, preachy legislation it engenders doesn’t reflect who I believe we are. Unless I’m a completely oblivious Pollyanna.

These bills are primary traps. A moderate Republican’s vote against extremism can be used to primary them in the next election. If you’re smart enough to see through that, though, they can stand up to the nonsense. Lacking Democrats, we need common-sense moderate Republicans to restore civility and balance into the process.

I’m not blaming Republicans for winning. Democrats in North Dakota have been poor messengers. But “Mind Your Own Business” and “Personal Freedom” are slogans we’d all embrace.

Amid these distractions, there’s a growing urban assault on rural areas. Despite voter rejection of corporate farming, Gov. Doug Burgum hopes to legislatively supersede the voter’s will.

He’s pushing a CO2 pipeline that deserves more debate.

His income tax break is a pittance for median incomes — $400 a year — while the richest of the rich make out like bandits. Like always.

Burgum’s fingerprints are all over a plan to consolidate rural superintendents — and, of course, eventually force consolidation, effectively punishing rural children for being rural in a rural state. Killing small towns.

So much for local control.

Rural areas still need roads. Rural kids deserve an equal education.

Bismarck’s forgotten who we are.

They’re too damn busy beating up vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, this discriminatory hick legislation makes national news. We’ve got 40,000 job openings, but with such negative publicity, who could be persuaded to move here?

Jerks, maybe.

© Tony Bender, 2023

2 thoughts on “TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Legislators Are More Extreme Than Their Constituents”

  • DINA BUTCHER January 26, 2023 at 11:02 am

    Just pondering with no real data whether this wave of luddite/regressive thinkers may be a result of at least 20 years of home schooling. Many entries in the legislative directory give little information about educational credentials.

  • Lillian Bachmeier January 28, 2023 at 12:03 am

    Thanks! you’ve expressed my anger well.


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