Bender: Let's run with the vision thing

Tony Bender
Tony Bender

I'm not afraid to admit I may have been wrong. OK, that's a lie, but I watched the State of the Union Tuesday, and it's obvious facts no longer matter. Indeed, facts may be a threat to democracy. Or at least to this administration.

Here's the deal — I've mocked North Dakota's connection to Teddy Roosevelt as overstated. And it is. He ranched here a few years, but when the going got tough, he got going. The dude was pretty much a snowbird. But I'm giving him a pass on that. Heck, I'd be in Florida myself if I didn't have snow to shovel. Anyway, George Washington never made it to South Dakota, and he's on Mount Rushmore, so maybe a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library isn't so farfetched.

There's a lot to like about Teddy. He battled the corrupt political machines and business monopolies of the day, and fathered the conservation movement. He brokered peace between Russia and Japan, won a Nobel Prize in the process (just like Barack Obama), and envisioned America as a global force for good. He made granny glasses cool long before John Lennon.

Wouldn't it be something to see a super majority of Republicans in the Legislature cough up $50 million in seed money for a progressive tree-hugging peacenik's presidential library? That would be totally worth $50 million. Sixty, even.

I know the will of the people is a mystery. Republicans are still grappling with ethics and medical marijuana initiatives because they aren't sure what voters meant. But let's go out on a limb here. Maybe Gov. Doug Burgum won because of that vision thing. Oh yeah, and breaking up the Good Ol’ Boy Network. Did you pack a lunch, Gov?

It's always about money, but the majority doesn't get to preach fiscal responsibility while surrendering $264 million per biennium in tax breaks to Big Oil. Not while your taxes are going up. We could always do more for North Dakota families. Alaska has a Permanent Fund from which annually, every man, woman and child gets a dividend from oil revenues. It was $2,072 in 2015. They put the surplus into the hands of the people. Imagine that. The Legacy Fund might be used to help defray college and health care costs. These are the things that attract and maintain a much-needed workforce. (I hate it when I sound so conservative.)

But there's room for vision, too. (This is the liberal part.) Here's an opportunity to enhance a destination, a way to draw people to the state and remind them of the noble things Teddy Roosevelt stood for, that America once stood for. Which is why we really should Make America Great Again. Plus, if we build the library, it will be one less spot that will get fracked.

North Dakotans have a history of thinking big. We've got a successful state bank and state mill. A state packing plant is worth a shot, too, before the vegetarians take over. Yes, $50 million is a big ask, but if we just call it a wall, maybe they'll go for it.

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.