Stephen Hunter

The Lower Depths

(Image: from davidandahl.com website)

If there’s a personification of this bent election, it’d be “DakotaDave Andahl, a Republican killed by COVID-19 who later won the state in a blowout.

 

David Andahl was born and raised on the flat, endless plains of North Dakota. With not a tree in sight, it’s a place of acquired and gentle illusions. A stroll to that telephone pole over yonder has you still walking an hour later—the pole seemingly no closer than it was when you started out. It’s a landscape that doesn’t end at the horizon so much as simply run out of visual energy.

To hear Dave talk is to have your ear tickled with a real-life version of Marge Gunderson from Fargo. (Ooh ya, that Trump fella, he’s real sweet now, eh?). You can hear the snow blowing in wispy lines across the highway; stalks of tan grass bending as they stick out in tufts above the drifts. The man is so proud of his roots that he refers to himself as, “Dakota Dave.”

In the immediate wake of the weirdest election in American history, Dakota Dave is as good a place as any to stick the thermometer in.

Dakota Dave is a cattle rancher, land developer, and amateur racecar driver. Though he served on various zoning and planning commissions, he never considered electoral politics; that is, until this year. Spurred by his love of the president and his loathing for what he considered to be the socialist agenda of the Democrats, he threw his hat into the Republican ring running for a seat in the State Legislature. Earning the endorsement of North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum (“because we need more Trump Republicans in the State Legislature”), Dave defeated two others in a wet-cats-in-a-sack Primary; a race to see who loved Donald Trump the most fervently.

Though the COVID-19 cases had reached record numbers in the Dakotas, Dave insisted that the pandemic was mostly an overhyped hoax and has railed against such intrusive measures as bar and restaurant closings, mask mandates, and social-distancing marks on the floors of banks.

He fears that under a Democrat government health care would be made public, regulations would strangle small businesses, tariffs would be lifted, exposing him and others to unfair trade practices and taxes would rise allowing coastal elites to get rich off the sweat of hard-working men like himself. Bad enough his ancestors came from Norway—don’t have to turn into Norway, he figured.

 

In the immediate wake of the weirdest election in American history, Dakota Dave is as good a place as any to stick the thermometer in.

 

This past week, he took on the two-term, sitting Representative from Bismarck, Democrat Jeff Delzer, in the general election. And, in lockstep with his hero in the White House, Dakota Dave won the State in a blowout.

However, just like that telephone pole that never seems to get any closer, irony just keeps spreading, endlessly, out ahead of both David Andahl and the American polity. Start with two facts. Fact one: Dakota Dave was elected to the North Dakota State Legislature on November 3rd, 2020. Fact two: He had actually died from the coronavirus on October 5th.

The wise citizens of Bismarck, North Dakota, elected a dead Republican over a live Democrat.

Maybe we should just sit with that for a minute. Watch our breath. In. Out.

Okay, now we can start spreading out to further horizons.

If the US had a robust public health system, many, including Dave, would probably be alive today. As a rancher, Dave’s business was only surviving due to massive influxes of cash from the Federal government—an influx made necessary by the recent Trump tariffs put on Chinese beef imports. And the cherry on the soda, that financial assistance itself is only made possible because of taxes on the people of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Oregon, and Washington; those account for 85% of all revenue transfers to the other 43 States. 33% of the revenue that North Dakota receives annually is in the form of transfers from those listed above; all of them have coastlines; all lean, generally speaking, Democrat, or “elites” in Dave’s world.

Irony is a cold mistress. She can twist the guts of the rational, but she can’t save Dakota Dave nor the lives of 240,000 Americans and counting. She can make your brain hurt, but she can’t return a level of sanity, civility, and rationality to the American electorate. What she can do, however, is blow on her harmonica, join the lonesome call of a distant train, and provide a melancholy soundtrack to the slow demise of a once-great democracy.

 

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