Two-Party System Thrives - Popular Democracy is Alive
December 31, 1972
Shared power aptly describes the North Dakota political scene today and during the 1960s. William Guy won reelection three times to keep a Democrat in the governor’s office from 1961 until now. And, Democrat Arthur Link has this year won the governorship. The Republican party controlled the state legislature with rare exception.
In the United States Senate, both Republican Milton Young and Democrat Quentin Burdick had little trouble maintaining their seats. The House of Representatives reflected a similar division of office. Republican Mark Andrews held his seat from 1963 into the 1970s and Democrats Rolland Redland in 1964 and Arthur Link in 1970 filled the state’s second position. This year North Dakota has been reduced to one member of the House, Mark Andrews.
North Dakotans remained true to the Republican party in presidential elections, except in 1964 when they joined the rest of the nation in rejecting Barry Goldwater in favor of Lyndon Johnson. In 1960, 1968, and this year, Richard Nixon easily carried the state.
Citizens exercised their right to popular democracy by placing 24 initiatives and referrals on the ballots. By far the most controversial of the referrals involved changes in the state’s tax structure. The 1963 legislature enacted four tax reforms. Robert McCarney, the Bismarck car dealer who would lose to Guy in 1968, organized a campaign to void the changes. Time magazine has called him, “King of the Referral.” The people, by five-to-one margins, agreed. Again in 1965 another tax-reform package was referred and again the legislature’s actions were overturned.
It is clear that North Dakota has become a two-party state and that the people are more than willing to make their voices heard through popular democracy.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.