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Watch Port: Why do crude political tactics work? – Latest Politics News


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MINOT — I like and admire Gov. Doug Burgum as an elected leader.

Burgum as a candidate is another matter. He’s prone to using crass and cynical tactics. From buying donors by

giving away cash cards

to positively Trumpian bombast about

“skipping” debates he didn’t actually qualify for,

Burgum, the candidate, seems to value these stratagems more than he does his dignity.

This last week Burgum’s campaign sent email pitches to voters asking them to be on an “advisory board” for his campaign that “will allow you to send your correspondence securely and directly to Team Burgum.” All they have to do is donate, according to the email several of you readers forwarded to me.

It’s pay for play, in other words. It would be much more objectionable if we believed that “Team Burgum” is waiting anxiously somewhere to receive the advisory correspondence of every rando who dropped a couple of bucks in the collection plate.

Spoiler alert: they’re not. This is a come-on meant to squeeze more dollars out of the sort of rubes who believe everything they read on the internet.

I’m picking on Burgum, I know. These dismal strategies are common in politics. Many political figures are far more egregious.

Burgum’s various adventures with tacky tactics and eye-roll-worthy rhetoric pale in comparison to the stinking river of furious bunkum we get from disgraced former President Donald Trump. The frontrunner for the GOP’s presidential nomination by a country mile, I’d remind you.

This brings me to this column’s point: why does this nonsense work?

There are entire genres of art — movies, television shows, literature, music — dedicated to the cynical, egotistical, win-at-any-cost cupidity. This is a known quantity in American politics. We are aware of it.

But the politicians keep behaving this way.

Because it keeps working.

Because we keep falling for it. Or, at least, enough of us do to reward the politicians who behave this way with what they want, which is election and re-election.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourselves when a politician is ever really contrite for their behavior. The answer is when there’s a cost to it, electorally.

The ends justify the means. Winners get forgiven.

It is fashionable to deride the political class for their endless pandering to the lowest common denominator. We pompously condemn it as a top-down problem, but it’s not.

It’s a bottom up problem.

It has its roots in the body politic. It comes from us. The politicians do it, because we reward it.

Vox populi, vox dei, though

as Alcuin said to Charlamagne,

we ought not believe the voice of the people is the voice of god “since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”

Things like social media and smartphones have made this unhappy moment in American politics one of the most populist eras in history. The voice of the riotous crowd is thunderous, and many of our political leaders are listening.

What we’re left with is madness.

The political class deserves their blame, sure, but so do we.

Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service with an extensive background in investigations and public records. He covers politics and government in North Dakota and the upper Midwest. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.

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