MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer came under fire recently for comments he made in the context of the war of words between President Donald Trump and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
“I could be a victim of racism, but I don’t offend easily, I just don’t offend that easily,” Cramer told a press gaggle asking him about the feud.
Pressed on how he could be a victim of racism, Cramer pointed out that many people look down their noses at North Dakotans.
“Well, if somebody said something about being from North Dakota, every now and then I get a snicker about it, somebody will say something about North Dakota in some snide way, I don’t offend because I’m comfortable with where I come from, I’m comfortable with who I am. I’m comfortable with my own accomplishments and the accomplishments of our state,” he said.
These were clumsy comments — Cramer shouldn’t describe himself as a “victim of racism” because some people think North Dakotans are rubes — but they aren’t without merit either.
I loathe identity politics, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats deploying the tactic, but it’s hard to ignore just how much Democrats have hurt themselves by practicing the very sort of disdain for rural, red state voters that Cramer is talking about.
For decades now the entertainment industry, dominated as it is by left wing sympathies, has portrayed places like North Dakota as provincial and unsophisticated, at best.
As the home of backward, bigoted ingrates, at worst.
In 2004, in the wake of President George W. Bush’s re-election, Saturday Night Live branded the middle-of-the-country states which voted for him as “dumbf***istan.”
During the 2008 election then-Sen. Barack Obama described Midwesterners as being “bitter” and clinging “to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them.”
By the time Obama’s time in the White House concluded his divisive approach to politics, encapsulated by those 2008 comments, cost his party 10 percent of their U.S. Senate seats, and nearly 20 percent of their seats in the U.S. House.
Democratic control of state legislative seats also declined by 20 percent, and the number of Democratic governors declined by more than 35 percent. “Democrats currently hold fewer elected offices nationwide than at any time since the 1920s,” NPR reported in 2016.
That decline was due in no small part to a turn against Democrats in the middle part of America.
That same year Hillary Clinton, hoping to replace Obama in the White House, largely ignored Midwestern states like Wisconsin and described Trump-supporting rural red staters as “deplorables.”
Those voters handed Trump the election, to the tooth-gnashing and garment-wrending dismay of progressives across the nation.
Trump’s comments about Baltimore have been unfair, and needlessly divisive, but pardon me if I roll my eyes at the political left taking umbrage after years and years of attacks on rural, Midwestern culture.
Hate is hate, whether the motivation is skin color or sexual orientation or geography.
How about we all try to do better?
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.