Two-Party System Thrives - Popular Democracy is Alive

Bismarck, N.D.
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.

Arthur Link (right) was elected governor in 1972, following William Guy (left) who served three terms.

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.

Mark Andrews campaigning for the House of Representatives. Courtesy of North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies.

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.

Grade Level

3-5, 7-12

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change