By Samuel Boehlke
Governor Doug Burgum has, likely, no shot at the Republican presidential nomination.
On a stage full of other governors with more national recognition, charisma, and contentious records than he has, there should have been little to make him stand out.
Most candidates played the part they were expected to play. Ramaswamy was as blunt and carefree as ever, Pence was the old guard he has chosen to be, and DeSantis finally brought back some fire. Center stage was the focus, and for good reason: the candidates with the best shot at the nomination managed to tear each other to pieces with no respect for timers or courtesy. The last thing I expected to care about was the governor on the opposite side of the stage from my seat.
With no prescription painkillers, Burgum decided to brave his Achilles tendon tear to stand for two hours and mostly listen to the other candidates bicker their way through the debate. When he did speak, his presence on the stage finally made sense.
Burgum started simply. He led with humor, joking about his injury, before launching into a deadly serious answer about the economy and national security.
“The economy, energy, and national security are all tied together,” Burgum said, explaining that Biden’s economic policies are “subsidizing China” and harming our farmers at home. The theme of strong anti-China policy continued when Burgum was asked how he would deter China.
“Something that would send a lot more than a press release is actually Harpoon missiles. We need anti-ship missiles on Taiwan,” Burgum said.
Burgum seemed uniquely aware that real Presidential power is found in foreign policy and international trade, not the domestic issues that dominate most presidential debates. His answer on abortion focused on the fact that we “should not” have a federal
law due to “The Constitution,” and his education policy centered on state’s rights. Only when the moderators asked about crime in cities did Burgum’s focus as a potential head of state show itself.
“Nobody ever asked the question of what about the crime wave in small towns? … There’s accountability, there’s transparency; one thing I think this country could use is somebody in the White House that understands small-town values,” Burgum said.
As Governor of North Dakota, Burgum has faced fewer of the challenges other governors have. With the support of his state, he has passed laws with comparative ease that were decried as extremist elsewhere. He, unlike other governors, has been able to lead easily and carry the agenda he has chosen against the external pressures of national media outlets and lobbying organizations. This makes him an unproven candidate. It also means he knows small towns and tightly knit communities like few
others who participated on Wednesday night.
That small-town knowledge may have been his edge in the contentious back-and-forth that disrupted proceedings all night. While other candidates sniped at each other’s policies in fevered attempts to swing votes, Burgum played with nothing to lose and simply respected the clock. Compared to the rest of the stage, his cowboy stoicism was respectful and patient. Although his eloquence certainly failed him at times, his willingness to follow the structure of the debate modeled the exact small-town spirit he pointed out.
When it was time for closing arguments, Burgum left the audience with a vision of hope.
“When I’m on horseback in the badlands of North Dakota, it looks like the horizon is just limitless. And when you can almost see beyond that horizon, you can see that this great country, our future is unlimited,” he said.
The endless horizon is something you can never experience in a big city. There will always be another obstacle, another building disrupting the infinite sky. The sheer possibility of a horizon is something few can truly experience in a city, and those are
only the ones rich enough to spend time on the highest floors of towering buildings. Burgum’s fellow candidates may have reached that peak. Most of America has not and never will, and that is for the best.
Although he may not be the Republican candidate come election day, Burgum latched onto something only he and Jason Aldean seem willing to say, much less act on: small towns and what they hold dear are the key to stabilizing America. As campaign season
continues and one of them takes their shot at the Oval Office, the other Republican candidates might do well to take some pointers from the Governor of North Dakota.
Samuel Boehlke, 21, is a senior in Mass Communication/Law and Policy at Concordia University Wisconsin, Senior Editor at New Guard Press, and a contributor at The Federalist. Other writings and contact information can be found at Veraffinitas.