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If you have the votes, you can do whatever you want.

As for the recent Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, I’d like both my loyal readers to know that I once again had friends for it, friends against it, and there I was among my friends. Although Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in North Dakota disagreed with me and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and in the end they won, the entire process reminded me of how much courage it takes to be part of the opposing winds.

For the record, I was quite proud of Heitkamp’s “no” vote because there was and still is way too much doubt in the air. My first doubts came when the majority party decided to only share selected portions of Kavanaugh’s lengthy public service record, then the lies under oath showed up before any mention of assaulting a woman … and then watching the majority twist the truth confirmed my opinion. For instance, Christine Blasey Ford said she had told friends about her letter and they may have gone public with its existence. Yes, I agree the letter left me with all sorts of questions, like why would you send it to a U.S. senator marked confidential in the first place?

But when you have the votes, you can do whatever you want. Remember when the Senate changed the rules for confirming justices from 66 senators to 51? This is a good thing if you have only 51 senators … back then this was called the “nuclear option” and we’ve been governed by it ever since.

But I live in a state where one political party possesses every office except one, so when Heitkamp said “no” last week it took a great amount of political courage to be against the predominant majority in her home state. Some would call such a move political suicide, which is when an elected official decides that doing what’s right is more important than what’s politically expedient.

Over the years I’ve learned that it takes more courage to lead than be led. There’s an interesting irony in being an elected official. Many folks think whomever we elect is supposed to represent/do whatever those folks think should be done, i.e., the people lead their leaders.

From a political standpoint it makes sense to go along with what your constituents say they want. The hard part is determining what they want because each of us has our own self-interest. Interest groups (think Right to Life, The Catholic Conference, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) have great influence in our political process because they engage our government with money as well as broad audiences. Not all interest groups are bad, but one has to realize that each one does have its own agenda and political consequences for any politician who doesn’t go along with their influence. Thus the reality of politics is once again you can do what you want if you have the votes.

So when doing what you think is right versus politically popular you become a leader rather than being led and as usual I have a case in point. Back in my city commissioner days we sued the BNSF over an oil spill that decimated downtown Mandan. We won and began reconstruction, which raised the ire of many folks who thought we were going to turn the entire downtown into a parking lot. ( Never mind that after we tore down a dozen or so structures we had a major restaurant franchise look at downtown and leave because there wasn’t enough parking.)

Anyway, some folks were mad and passing recall petitions around. The mayor got sick and for two meetings I became mayor. I thought the first meeting went well until in the midst of the second meeting they handed in petitions recalling us. Thanks to cooler heads we won the recall, but for the record we were recalled because we were leading our community rather than being led by it.

Therefore I applaud Heitkamp for doing the right thing and hope that she will be allowed to continue her good work for us in the Senate.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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