On May 26, 2016, Donald Trump brought his presidential campaign to Bismarck. It was a watershed day for him as North Dakota gave him enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination.
An enthusiastic crowd of more than 7,000 packed the Bismarck Event Center. One of the themes of his speech was the deregulation of the energy sector. A key adviser to Trump on the topic was then-Rep. Kevin Cramer, an early congressional supporter of Trump.
Cramer would remain a loyal supporter of Trump through his successful presidential campaign and his four years in office. In turn, Trump helped Cramer win his Senate seat, defeating incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.
Cramer remained loyal to Trump throughout his term. Rarely did he directly criticize the president, becoming an enabler for the president.
Last week, Cramer publicly broke with the president by announcing that he would vote to accept Electoral College delegates from states disputed by Trump. Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kelly Armstrong, both Republicans, also announced they wouldn’t oppose the delegates.
The Tribune editorial board believes they were right to accept the electoral votes. We also believe the delegation, especially Cramer, waited too long to break with the president.
Trump fought the election results in several states through recounts and court challenges. That was his right, but he went too far, resulting in last week’s riot at the Capitol. Cramer acknowledged that Joe Biden had probably won the presidential election, but, at least publicly, didn’t encourage Trump to accept the results.
Cramer and Hoeven announced they would support an independent commission to study the integrity of the election. A backhanded way of giving credibility to Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. Trump used an executive order on May 11, 2017, to create the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission uncovered no problems and quietly disbanded on Jan. 3, 2018.
Cramer was currying favor with Trump until the riots erupted at the Capitol.
Trump provided Cramer with national visibility as the North Dakota senator was seen as a White House insider. He was often interviewed or quoted by all the networks. Those insider days are over.
Cramer, and too many other Republicans, refused to challenge Trump when he wrong. They allowed him to take the nation to the brink of disaster. Trump could still do harm in the next week and Republicans must shoulder the responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Cramer needs to publicly admit there was no major voter fraud which has been confirmed through recounts, inspection of voting machines and court rulings. The state’s junior senator needs to apologize for not doing so earlier. Mistakes have been made, but widespread fraud hasn’t been found. Texas did an exhaustive review of its election and no charges were filed.
When President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week there’s an opportunity to go in a new direction. With the Senate split 50-50 and the Democratic majority in the House reduced, it can either be gridlock or compromise. It’s time for compromise.
Instead of being a lackey for a president, Cramer needs to work across the aisle as do all members of Congress. Sometimes ideology needs to be left on the table for practicality. There’s much Congress must do, especially as the pandemic lingers. It’s time for leaders, not for those who blindly follow to keep a grip on power.