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General News    H3'ed 10/25/22

Congressman Jamie Raskin: "Thank you, PDA, for hanging tough"

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Jamie Raskin
Jamie Raskin
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[It all boils down to this:] "Voting is like driving: if you want to go forward, you put it in D; if you want to go backwards, you put it in R."--Jamie Raskin

The 115th session of the Zoom group Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition (GREEP) featured Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who gained national prominence recently as lead manager in the second set of impeachment hearings against Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Farther back in time, Raskin also helped found the Progressive Democrats of America, in the company of two other pioneer activists, Mike Hersh and Joel Siegel. Most of the session focused on the upcoming elections, expectably, as well as MAGA's fascistic threats against our democracy.

The majority of this country are on our side, Raskin began; youth are registering Democratic at a ratio of two to one; all are moving in our direction. The Republican Party has been reduced to a cult of authoritarian personality around Donald Trump, a huge dive from its origins as Lincoln's party. Rightly did Biden accuse them of semi-fascist elements: "It the shoe semi-fits, you semi-wear it!'

He named actions like the attacks on early voting, weekend voting, and the mail-in ballot as well as voter challenging (happening in Georgia), gerrymandering, and the filibuster as large symptoms of the decay of democracy we must fight against.

We need more Democrats in the Senate to codify Roe v Wade and promote gun safety. The GOP thrives on the Electoral College, responsible for installing five popular-vote losers as presidents, two Republicans in this century alone. Gerrymandering isn't in the Constitution, but the Electoral College is. Presidential campaigns focus on swing states almost exclusively: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and aa few others. We export democracy hypocritically while whittling it down at home. We must have direct elections, which are indeed "democracy itself."

For Biden democracy may seem static (as he implied in a speech a few weeks ago), but for Tocqueville it was expanding or shrinking 150 years ago. Raskin specified six Amendments out of many that expand democracy: numbers 15, 17, 19, 23, 24, and 26. We must get back on that track--to a sea change that statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico would accomplish, for example. We must add an amendment on the right to vote and restore the Voting Rights Act back to the full strength that SCOTUS gutted in 2013.

"There is no solution to the ills of democracy except for more democracy." We're fighting to keep it this way.

Joel Siegel, co-convener of GREEP and former lead counsel to Congressman John Conyers, asked Raskin to specify, as a Constitutional scholar (a former professor of Constitutional law before he became a state senator in Maryland), what exact federal laws Trump had violated with the January 6 insurrection: Conspiracy to interfere with a federal proceeding, the official counting of the electoral votes?

Raskin replied, a federal statute. Halting the proceedings was the whole point of the Stop the Steal movement. "He pointed them like a loaded gun at the Capitol; he knew that they were armed. Bring down the magnetometers, bring down the metal detectors. He had been mobilizing [the opposition]. They sharpened the United States flag into weapons," the Congressman said. They have been accused and convicted of seditious conspiracy, to overthrow the US government. There is a very powerful circumstantial case to be made against them and 150 have already been prosecuted. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice are in a position to prosecute any federal crimes that they see. Many of those prosecuted point to Trump as instigator who forced them to do what they did: "If I'm guilty, then Donald Trump is guilty." And he's facing many other charges, including bank fraud, real estate fraud, and election fraud.

Another question from Siegel concerned the possibility of limiting the power of extremist groups and their violence against minorities. Why should they be allowed to threaten voters? Aren't there limitations we can put on these groups before it's too late? All 50 states ban "private" militias, Raskin said; this is made very clear in the Constitution. These can be banned. They must be banned at the federal level too. They can be prosecuted but also sued, and many such groups have been bankrupted by this process. This is probably the best way to put them out of business.

The next subject was Georgia, a hotbed of election corruption with its notorious SB 202 passed in the wake of the "Georgia Miracle" that handed the Senate majority to Democrats. Ray McClendon, head of the state's NAACP and architect of the Georgia Miracle said that early voting began last week and almost 750,000 have already voted, in a ratio of 60 percent Democratic to 40 percent GOP, numbers nearly as large as in 2020 at this time, though-mail-in votes are falling behind. Blacks are overperforming as a percent of the total black registered voters in the state, as a result of massive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. McClendon asked Raskin how to amass more support from the funding community for these crucial grassroots efforts, which must be ongoing year-round rather than just during election seasons--how to amass more grassroots support.

There are strict laws governing financial support of campaigns, said Raskin, and we can't get involved at the level of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations. We all must realize the importance of defending the right to vote at the local level and using that right to reflect the will of the people and procure effective leadership to accomplish this.

Civic engagement and civic activism are of crucial importance, Raskin continued. There is a crisis of Constitutional illiteracy. People must be educated; the MAGA component believes that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow people to overthrow the government and that the Constitution makes America a Christian nation. It is that kind of Constitutional illiteracy that has gotten us into this terrible situation.

Said McClendon, the Center for Common Ground is building Democracy Centers all over the Southeast that teach civics, a subject no longer taught in public schools. We're making people aware that they can become activists and participate in the government at the city and school board levels, where the other side has become involved. We need to counterbalance that. When we go into barbershops and beauty shops and out on the streets to to reach out to the people, they ask where we are the rest of the year beyond getting us to vote.

Raskin pointed to certain practices already in place year-round, including free minor auto repairs so that people won't be pulled over and harassed because they need them; diapers and food are also made available to those in need.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)
 

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