FARGO — Kevin Cramer has never made his unquestioning love for Donald Trump a secret, which was irritating if understandable to Democrats. The Republican U.S. Senator's pledge of 100% loyalty to Trump was viewed as shameless but expected. Cramer's always been more petty than deep, more opportunistic than original.
Cramer's recent defense of Trump, though, has crossed a line. He's slid from simply supporting the president to echoing conspiracy theories undercutting Americans' trust in elections.
The long-term consequences to our democracy could be devastating, and Cramer seems not to care. He, in fact, seems to revel in the baseless allegations and lies that are infecting right-wing media and the Republican Party base.
On an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Cramer repeated unfounded conspiracy theories touted by Trump and his lawyers. He excused the president's post-election behavior — which almost daily has painted his resounding loss to Democrat Joe Biden as fraudulent or rigged — because Democrats "went through four years of trying to delegitimize him."
While Cramer said it's time to allow Biden to start his transition to the White House, he also said Trump should continue to "fight this to the end" while questioning the veracity of mail-in ballots ("Who knows?") and saying the president should continue his court battles because "we can't ignore hundreds of signed affidavits."
Just a couple of problems with Cramer's thinking: There is no evidence suggesting problems with voting by mail, just as there is no evidence of "hundreds of signed affidavits" indicating fraud.
There is no evidence of anything Trump and his supporters allege. And when given the chance to present evidence, Trump's lawyers scamper like cockroaches when a light bulb turns on.
Allegations like the affidavits were nothing more than scat thrown against the wall by Trump's lawyers, including the disgraced and unbalanced Rudy Giuliani. They are not based in reality. They have been rejected by judges.
Even Republicans are saying, albeit too late and too quietly, that Trump's assault on the truth and our election integrity is embarrassing.
Cramer, of course, sees it differently. He is all-in on Trump's alternative facts. It'd be funny, in a sad way, if there wasn't real damage being done.
Trump's sideshow, empowered by the likes of Cramer, is eroding confidence in our elections.
Pre-election polls showed 70% of Republicans believed official results to be reliable. Now, almost that same number say the 2020 election was not free and fair. That includes more than 40% who say it "definitely" was not free and fair.
It wasn't a particularly close election by any measure. Yet Trump is trying to use the courts to overturn an election he lost nationally by 6.5 million votes and in the Electoral College by a 306-232 margin.
Trump and his supporters like Cramer are, in the words of one election law professor, creating the conditions for elections not to work in the future.
Trump's election cancer is spreading. The ramifications to America could be devastating and Cramer doesn't seem to care, since he's busy helping sow the conditions. If only his deceitfulness was surprising.