People still ask questions about North Dakota's Non-Partisan League (NPL). Why was the NPL started? Why did this progressive-liberal organization end up joining the Democratic Party? To find out, read on...
By Buckshot Hoffner
People still ask me questions about North Dakota's Non-Partisan League (NPL). Why was the NPL started? Why did this progressive-liberal organization end up joining the Democratic Party?
From statehood in 1889 to 1915, there was really only one party in power in North Dakota, and that was the Republican Party. They had complete control of the state House and Senate and the governor's office. In all that time, there were many progressive, liberal-thinking people in the Republican Party with little or no voice. These progressives were not only fed up, but just plain angry.
In 1916, this North Dakota group sold $16 memberships and started the Non-Partisan League. That year they had a convention, passed a platform and selected candidates, which they file in the Republican column in the primary election. They elected Lynn J. Frazier governor and made gains in the Legislature. In his message to the Legislature, Governor Frazier asked that farmers and small businesses be allowed to pay their taxes in two increments of six months each, that interest rates be reduced, that women be given minimum wage and safer working conditions, that state employees be considered civil service, that rural schools be improved and the list goes on. The message was taken from the platform and adopted by the NPL.
In the 1918 election, the NPL took control of the North Dakota House and Senate and re-elected Governor Frazier. This amount of NPL control resulted in the establishment of the Bank of North Dakota, the State Mill and Elevator, a three-person Industrial Commission, state hail insurance, and many other programs.
As years went by, the NPL's control gradually eroded and the Republican money in the primaries was too much to overcome. In 1956, the NPL took a major step and filed its candidates in the Democratic column in the primary election.