LISTEN: House Republican embraces 5 conspiracy theories in one 20-minute interview

Rep. Kevin Cramer thinks universal health care leads to people stealing their neighbors' possessions.

Rep. Kevin Cramer talks about being one of the first to endorse Donald Trump on Thursday, May 26, 2016. CREDIT AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Rep. Kevin Cramer talks about being one of the first to endorse Donald Trump on Thursday, May 26, 2016. CREDIT AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Donald Trump, as a conspiracy theory-embracing politician, didn’t come out of nowhere. He emerged as the leader of a Republican party that accepted and trafficked in conspiracy theories and demonized Democrats and liberals even before his rise.

This was on full display Tuesday morning, when Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined the AM 1090 KTGO radio show Morning Lowdown with Dennis Lindahl.

An interview about the economy quickly veered into literal and figurative economic sabotage, millennials stealing from their neighbors, Hillary Clinton dressing like Chairman Mao, Barack Obama selling out America to become U.N. secretary general, and claims about the Democrats wanting to shut down the government.

Cramer said the “biggest obstacle” to economic growth is “all of this liberal activism”

The interview started out normally enough, with Cramer extolling the virtues of a president who “understands the economy” and the recent stock market gains. Then he pointed the finger at liberals.

“The biggest obstacle to all of this is liberal activism that’s designed to try and cause a failure for this president which of course creates failure for our country,” Cramer concluded. The host followed up on Cramer’s last point about liberal activism and asked Cramer, “What’s their endgame? They just want the United States to collapse from within?”

“That’s a great question,” Cramer replied. “A lot of times when you see activism, you think there’s strategy … or some greater good behind it. What I see, in the streets these days: the looting, the violence, the busting of windows, the burning of equipment like we’ve seen with the Dakota Access Pipeline, there doesn’t seem to be a goal. There’s certainly not an educated one. There’s this sort of general, ‘We hate Trump, we hate America,’ there’s almost a culture that lacks logic and lacks certainly anything noble about it, so I don’t really know what their goal is.”

Cramer’s argument that liberals want Trump to fail rings hollow when looking at the history of the Republican Party. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in 2009 that he sought to lead the GOP caucus because he wanted Obama to fail. And the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were not simply wanton destruction. In fact they were led by Native American tribes like the Standing Rock Sioux, who sought to halt construction that seriously threatened sacred sites and drinking water supplies. The firm’s security guards were better-armed than the protesters, and the United Nations called the treatment of the protesters “inhuman.”

Cramer said liberals are trying to scare business owners through “smashing their windows or burning their equipment”

“The problem that I see with a lot of it Dennis is that some of seems to be fairly effective,” Cramer said of the liberal activism he said he saw in the streets. “You scare people off — good, solid businesspeople, whether it’s on Main Street in Tioga or Wall Street and everything in between. Businesspeople that advocate for the kinds of things that create wealth, that create jobs, that create opportunities for Americans, but they sort of cave to the liberal culture because who wants to have demonstrators smashing their windows, or burning their equipment? So they tend to say, ‘well maybe if I give on this one, at least I can keep my business going.’ And I’m concerned with what I’m seeing across America… Now we don’t see a whole lot of it in North Dakota, but we see plenty of it.” He again flagged the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as “irrational” violence aimed at stopping business.

Cramer said in an “entitlement culture… pretty soon you start believing that your neighbor’s stuff is your stuff”

Cramer pointed to “generational challenges” and an “entitlement culture that’s crept in to our generations and they expect to have free health care for the rest of their lives, that they expect to have food stamps no matter what, so they don’t have to work.” He said there’s a culture where employers are “better off if they don’t grow and people are better off if they don’t have a job.”

The host asked him if “leftists” and “technology leaders” like Mark Zuckerberg who talk about the idea of a universal basic income, “are really encouraging all this.” Cramer agreed. “There’s no question about it.” He said these leftists tout a “utopia” but really they would achieve “mediocrity” through “socialism.” Their goal, Cramer said: “For everyone in North Dakota and in America will have wonderful, free access to mediocre health care.” He warned that this “gravitation to the lowest common denominator happens very quickly, and pretty soon you start believing that your neighbor’s stuff is your stuff.”

It’s unclear where Cramer is basing his claims about stealing from neighbors.

Cramer didn’t object when the host said Hillary dressed like Chairman Mao

The host said there are Democrats and Republicans who “nearly, almost, idealize China — of course they’re vilifying Russia, the failed communist state. They want to make the failed communist state the enemy, but they love China. China can steal all the secrets, we can sell all the missile technology…” He asked why the “common person” who are “carrying all kinds of debt on their student loans, they’re so educated, why do they not know that democracy is going to erode into socialism and socialism will erode into communism. I get a hard time when I say these Democrats — even Hillary Clinton during the campaign, she was wearing clothing like Chairman Mao! They idolize China, they idolize the communist state. I have no doubt that they believe … they’re the golden children who will be able to make communism work…”

Cramer did not push back at all on the host’s theory that Democrats are communists who love Chairman Mao and want to turn America into a communist state. Initially he kept his response more general, saying those systems “don’t work because they can’t work.” He then said “but I think you’re on to something, that cycles through every now and then, and that is this romanticism of communist cultures.” Cramer argued both that China was taking positive steps like burning coal, and negative steps, by building their navy quickly. He said their goal is to take over the world with their military or economy.

Cramer didn’t argue when the host said Obama “sells out” America so he can become U.N. Secretary General

“We’ve got to have teachers better informed,” Cramer said. “We’ve got to have better textbooks that tell the ugly truth about American history as well as the great things about a free market system and capitalism that is the root — private property ownership, which is the root of our liberty, and stop apologizing for America’s exceptionalism. But for eight years, Barack Obama hated American exceptionalism! He wouldn’t use the term ‘American exceptionalism’ — or he just didn’t understand it.”

“Well Barack Obama has his sights set on U.N. Secretary General, so we know why he sells out the United States,” the host said. “I believe he just wants to make himself look better. He has larger aspirations.”

Cramer did not interject or object to these claims.

* * *
Conspiracy theories are not unique to Cramer.

Before he was elected, Donald Trump had said that: asbestos is safe, climate change is a hoax, vaccines cause autism, the late Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered, Ted Cruz’ dad was involved in the JFK assassination, and Obama is secretly a Muslim and also never went to college. And Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) made a bizarre claim in a speech earlier this year that former President Barack Obama was sticking around in Washington, D.C. because he was operating a “shadow government.”

Cramer is not some irrelevant backbencher. He boasted in a press release last November about his elevation to the “powerful” House GOP Steering Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan.