Decline in the Dakotas

Earl Pomeroy struggles to hang on in North Dakota.

The Dakotas

In Midwestern Meltdown, I looked at the decline of the Democratic Party in the American Heartland. Democrats are bracing themselves for huge losses in the Midwest. Nowhere has this decline been more precipitous than in the Dakotas.

55% of Midwesterners disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance, six percentage points higher than the rest the country. 66% of rural Americans believe America is on the wrong track, five percentage points higher than voters as a whole.

In North Dakota and South Dakota, all these negative trends come together and reinforce each other: disillusioned, rural, populist, White Midwesterners – typical Red Americans – who vote Democrat and supported Barack Obama in 2008.

Like Montana, North Dakota was a swing state in the 2008 presidential election. John McCain carried both states, but only by 49% and 53% respectively. McCain also carried South Dakota with a dismal 53% of the vote.

87% of South Dakotans and 90% of North Dakotans are White. The White percentage of the electorate is higher still because American Indians are the largest minority in Upper Plains. In few other states has White support for the Democratic Party been as radically out of sync with the values of rural White Midwesterners.

For two decades, North Dakota has sent a solid Democratic congressional delegation to Washington. In the Senate, North Dakota is represented by Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan. In the House, by Earl Pomeroy.

Byron Dorgan is retiring this year. John Hoeven, a Republican, leads his Democratic challenger by a three-to-one margin. Earl Pomeroy, who won reelection in 2006 and 2008 by 31 and 24 points, is now trailing his Republican challenger. Kent Conrad will face North Dakota voters in 2012.

South Dakota is represented in the Senate by John Thune and Tim Johnson. In 2004, Thune defeated Tom Daschle, then Senate Majority Leader. Johnson was lucky enough to ride the Democratic wave to reelection in 2008. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is facing a tough challenge from Kristi Noem to retain her House seat.

Once upon a time, George McGovern and Tom Daschle came out of South Dakota. William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska slammed the monied interests of the East for crucifying labor upon a “Cross of Gold.” A search engine query for “Prairie Populism” turns up all sorts of interesting results.

The Great Plains were once a bastion of leftwing radicalism in America. The New Deal was popular in North Dakota. Under Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, “D” has become a scarlet letter in the Dakotas.

America’s Blue elite is incapable of holding on to the White voters now in their column. The economy is booming in North Dakota, with its $1 billion dollar budget surplus and 3.7% unemployment rate, but rage against Washington is at record highs, in spite of the fact that North Dakotans receive $1.68 from Washington for every $1.00 they pay in taxes.

This suggests a more fundamental transformation is going on.

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7 Responses to Decline in the Dakotas

  1. sparrow1969 says:

    I think that you’re right…a more fundamental transformation is going on, and it’s pretty disturbing. I’ve lived in North Dakota my whole life (I’m 41), and used to generally vote more republican than I do now.

    The current race for Byron Dorgon’s seat, between Governor John Hoeven and Tracy Potter is completely lopsided. Hoeven is ahead only because his party is backing him financially. Potter, who is the better man for the job, gets almost no help from his party. A local insider with the Democratic party tells me that he gets no help because they don’t think he has a shot at winning. I voted for Hoeven for governor, and now I regret it. He’s not even man enough to show up for live debates. He’s not willing to stick his neck on the chopping block of public scrutiny, because he knows he doesn’t have to since he’s got enough money to drown out the competition. He also doesn’t debate on live tv because he knows how badly he’d do.

    It disgusts me to no end that the man who is better mentally equipped, who has more common sense, and who really is interested in what the people need has been neglected by the very party that’s supposed to have his back. One more reason why I can’t stand how we are locked into this abomination of a two party system. I truly wish everyone had to run as independents…maybe then we’d actually get the better candidates in office.

    Also, just a bit about North Dakota receiving $1.68 for every $1.00 we pay in taxes. I believe that needs to stop. There’s no good reason we need to be on federal welfare. We had no business accepting any of the stimulus money either, especially given the rather large nest egg we have tucked away as a state.

    Sorry about the rant…I didn’t quite mean for this to turn out so long. I liked your post, even though the topic lights my hair on fire.


  2. Nightowl says:

    Yes North Dakota, where my Grandparents were born, gets more dollars back than it puts in. But where does that money go? Is it for welfare denizens, or does it go to keep the trans continental east west interstate corridors open for commerce, airbases full of ICBMs for the defense of the nation, etc?

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