Editorial says racism not issue in pipeline route

Forum Communications has had just about enough of the talk of racism surrounding the pipeline near the Standing Rock tribal land in North Dakota, according to today’s Grand Forks Herald barn burner of an editorial lambasting protesters.

The editorial, signed by Tom Dennis, disputes the protesters’ assertion of a double standard in the location of the pipeline route when it was steered away from Bismarck and toward the Standing Rock territory.

It’s responding to this segment on The Daily Show:

It’s not racism, Dennis argued in his editorial rebuttal. The pipeline was directed away from a city… with a lot of white people. But that doesn’t mean race was involved.

For months, protesters have accused Bismarck residents of racism and used the charge to justify the anti-pipeline cause. That hurt: Racism is an explosive charge, and if, in fact, the pipeline had been rerouted because it was NSFW—Not Safe for Whites, in comedian Trevor Noah’s words—the project would have been discredited.

Not one syllable of such evidence surfaced. Just the opposite: Clearly, the Army Corps’ routing avoided cities, not “whites,” and put the pipeline through the rural Midwest—which is mostly populated by whites.

Why didn’t it matter that on its way toward skirting the Standing Rock Reservation, the pipeline passed near the North Dakota towns of Epping, Watford City, Halliday, Dodge, Golden Valley, New Salem and Almont, among others? Or near dozens of other towns and past thousands more people on its way to Illinois?

It didn’t matter because evidence seldom matters, once the charge of racism is thrown.

As liberal columnist Froma Harrop recognized recently, “obsessive appeals to racial, ethnic, sexual and gender identity groupings are bad politics.” They work on occasion; they worked in this case. But they turn off voters by the millions, as the GOP’s dominance in statehouses shows.

Dennis also suggested out-of-area protesters were hypocritical by driving cars to the protest. “They used machines that kill 33,000 a year, in order to protest a miniscule water-contamination risk,” he wrote.

The company’s flagship, Fargo Forum, is a little less pugilistic in its editorial, although it shifts blame to the state’s politicians for criticizing the federal government’s review of the pipeline route to move it away from tribal lands.

Like it or not, the fed decision allows a cooling off period during which protesters can leave the camps south of Mandan near Cannon Ball, N.D. The law enforcement presence can be ratcheted way down. Roads can open. The fear that has plagued nearby farms and ranches will abate. The interlopers from out of state, many of whom have their own agendas for joining the protests, likely will leave because without confrontations there will be no headlines, TV pictures and “advocacy” reporting tilted to favor protesters.

But the issues that animated the protesters and forced state and federal officials to take another look at the pipeline permitting process have not been sufficiently addressed. It’s all on hold. For how long? The state’s congressional delegation—Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. John Hoeven, and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp—seems to think President-elect Donald Trump’s statements favoring completion of the pipeline will make everything peachy-keen in a couple of weeks. Dreamers all, if Trump reverses the decision to delay the permit.

The Forum called on the Trump administration to continue the review of the pipeline route to allow everyone in the dispute to cool off.

Meanwhile, in the Star Tribune’s editorial today, the paper seemed to reject the Herald’s assertion that the protest is inconsistent with the factors that got Trump elected.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have criticized the decision and blamed President Obama for influencing it, ought to keep that in mind. It reflects well on our nation that protesters camped out far from the corridors of power were heeded instead of K Street lobbyists. That three different federal agencies had raised concerns about the reviews of the pipeline’s environmental and cultural risks underscored the need for additional scrutiny.

Trump should weigh his administration’s pipeline policy with these points in mind. His anti-elitist, anti-corruption campaign won over average voters. Trump would have a global public relations disaster on his hands if the pipeline decision were quickly reversed after the inauguration. The guy who would benefit from such a move is a textbook example of the wealthy elite: Kelcy Warren, the Texas billionaire who is the pipeline company’s CEO. A political action committee linked to the pipeline company is a major contributor to the Republican Party.

Related: With Dakota Access pipeline halted, what happens now? (MPR News)