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Published November 07 2013

Forum editorial: Cramer mixes it up with coffee

One need not be a fan of Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to perceive he has honored the Founders’ intent about the constitutional role of the U.S. House of Representatives. The freshman congressman understands that serving in “the people’s house” requires mixing it up with the people.

Cramer has done just that during his first 10 months in office. Unlike his immediate predecessor, Cramer has conducted dozens of unrehearsed, wide open and candid town meetings and “Coffees with Cramer” in every part of the state. None we know of has been staged for friendly audiences. None has been salted with his partisan friends.

He’s accepted every invitation his schedule has allowed from talk-radio hosts, no matter the political persuasion of the host. He’s handled political intemperance with aplomb and courtesy, qualities lacking in talk-radio bloviators who revel in their haughty and hidebound partisanship. He’s been to newspaper editorial boards for free-wheeling, broad-ranging conversations and debates, both on and off the record.

Again, one need not agree with Cramer’s politics, policy positions or votes in the House to appreciate his willingness (it sometimes seems like eagerness) to venture into all sorts of public venues, hostile or friendly. And be assured, his coffees and town halls are announced well in advance, so that his political opponents can get their agents into the crowd – and they routinely do. To his credit, Cramer understands the game and seems to relish the challenges and debates.

Cramer is beginning to emerge from a tea party caricature (never accurate or fair to his more nuanced approach to governance) into a pragmatic congressman who is willing to stand by his principles while reaching across the aisle to find compromise. That’s a tall task in the U.S. House these days, but he is having some success as a member of a bipartisan group of about 30 colleagues, many of whom are focused on getting things done, rather than spewing quixotic ideological statements.

If Cramer can be part of that movement in the House, and chalk up a win or two, his first term will be successful.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.