Mr. Cramer Goes To Washington

Where to begin in describing Kevin Cramer, soon to be North Dakota’s lone voice in the US House of Representatives?  Simply put, he is the personification of a crumpled up sales slick leftover form the GOP’s last successful marketing campaign: 2010’s Tea Party Revolution.   In Cramer we have a career bureaucrat, unabashed, he readily admits to being the brain behind Ed Schafer’s economic train wreck of the 1990’s.  A period in time, not so long ago, where the national economy roared, and so many North Dakotans suffered.  High school and college graduates became accustomed to holding graduation parties in conjunction with moving out of state celebrations.  With the exception of Fargo’s retail and technology sectors (and let’s not forget Dorgan, Conrad, Pomeroy fighting hard for every single federal dollar) there was approximately 69,000 square miles of nothing happening across Buffalo Commons.

Fortunately for North Dakota it only appeared like John Hoeven, Jack Dalrymple, and Kevin Cramer were inept, do-nothing public servants. As it would turn out, this trio was busy pumping billions of barrels of oil into western North Dakota shale.  Not sure where they got all that crude or that the technology even existed but I will take their words for it: the ND GOP is solely responsible for the largest oil play in the contiguous United States since the Permian Basin days.

I do however have to compliment Cramer, during the campaign he seemingly had an abundance of energy and passion to carry him across the finish line.  I would be willing to bet if you poke Kevin Cramer in his sleep, he snarls “$16 trillion deficit” out of pure Pavlovian conditioning.  There were stretches where Cramer flashed glimpses of an enthused and energized Rick Berg circa 2010, pre- Paul Ryan Budget of course.  Such an idyllic time, when Republicans simply had to make people angry to get elected.  Governing? Well not so much, that’s for Democrats and losers.

But I digress.

Kevin Cramer will swagger into Washington with his divisive but obsolete rhetoric.  The first test will be finding out who his true friends are on the hill.  One of which may very well be John Hoeven in offering some quick advice that might go something like this:

“Kev-o, North Dakota needs money for flood protection, a new Farm Bill, infrastructure, and our population is old and getting older.  Remember the salad days when we really didn’t do anything other than show up at ribbon cuttings, well that money came from somewhere and if you want to be back in DC in 2015, you better drop the teabagger shtick!”

My gut tells me Cramer will NOT heed this advice, at some point much like Rick Berg, he will come back to North Dakota with tail firmly between legs.  Victimized by the fairy-tale where a “small government conservative” hailing from a tiny, albeit heavily dependent state, can go to Washington and change things.

This leads to a much broader question, can we please stop pretending like North Dakota is the model for free markets and “less is more” style of government?  We are far from it.  Matter of fact, right now across state offices, an exclusive club is picking winners and losers. Homegrown, highly skilled, independent businesses, many of which survived past boom and bust cycles are being artificially squeezed on prices for their products and services.  Alpha dog oil companies, with full access to the Governor have been granted permission to set price, terms and conditions: our way or the highway is the only economic axiom followed these days in the patch.

Unregulated, entitled, emboldened, this is Kevin Cramer’s North Dakota.