Hidden History of North Dakota

Nonpartisan League sees a resurgence in North Dakota

Local News

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the hidden history of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota.

Formed by farmers and merchants, in 1915, it became the largest political anomaly in a state otherwise controlled by the Republican Party.

Well, by the late 1940s, the League began to merge with the Democratic party, creating what’s now the Dem-NPL, and the Nonpartisan League itself has existed less and less on its own ever since.

That is until about five years ago, according to current Nonpartisan League Chair Jason Anderson.

He says it was only lying dormant before a grassroots movement began again to lift the working class people of North Dakota up.

He adds, more and more of those who came from an NPL background are feeling like both political parties are listening too closely to campaign donors, rather than ordinary citizens. This is similar to how the NPL emerged a century ago, in protest of the power of the big banks and the railroad.

“The Nonpartisan League stood for taking care of our land and not being part of a corporate machine. Growing up, that’s what I thought, and actually, that’s still what it is,” Anderson added.

Anderson says a couple of things the NPL is fighting for right now are legalizing cannabis and one candidate is proposing a state-run meat packing plant.

Retired North Dakota Supreme Court Justice and political expert Dale Sandstrom says factions within political parties, like the way the NPL formed, have been happening as long as politics have been around.

And, he says you can even see that happening today, particularly in the North Dakota Republican Party, mostly because of its sheer size.

“In the Legislature, some say you have the ‘House party’ and the ‘Senate party’. And people have different motivations and different views on things, and they are fitting within the party. So the more that you have a dominant one-party system, there’s more likely that the majority is going to see more of their differences, than they say, ‘We’ve got to stick together because there’s so few of us,'” Sandstrom explained.

Anderson says there are about 10 Nonpartisan League candidates running on the Democratic-Nonpartisan League ticket in the upcoming general election.

He says it’s the most we’ve seen in years.

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