04.17.16 Jamie Raskin for Congress

Jamie Raskin’s record of accomplishment is astounding. Let’s start with his 2006 campaign for the Maryland Senate from District 20. (Beginning there gives short shrift to Raskin’s career as a nationally respected professor of constitutional law at American University.) In launching the effort, Raskin not only took on an entrenched incumbent, Ida Reuben, who had been serving a decidedly anti-progressive party machine and big-business interests for decades. He also purposely took on a long history indifference to state politics by D-20 voters.

While our district is home to some of the most progressive voters in the country, many of our neighbors had only been focused on national and international politics. Year after year, Ida Reuben and her ilk represented us in Annapolis, keeping Maryland blue, but hardly better than center-right. Raskin not only trounced Reuben thoroughly (2 to 1) in a race he was supposed to lose. He also carried Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur with him as state delegates, in a progressive sweep. D-20’s powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sheila Hixson, got with the program, moving from cautious centrism to forceful progressive leadership, with Raskin as a guide and partner.

Jamie Raskin’s election, then, was not only about a single senate seat. He consciously sought to create a movement, providing the vision and voice that have given D-20 and our values the power we lacked in Maryland. This is leadership defined.

The list of legislation passed with Raskin’s authorship, contribution, co-sponsorship, or advocacy is too long to recount here. Same-sex marriage, gun control, environmental regulation and remediation, economic justice, campaign finance reform. Not everything Raskin has touched has become law. (There is more work to do in a state that remains far more conservative than its Democratic reputation implies). But so many laws would never have seen the light of day or gotten to victory without him in the trenches.

Raskin’s most recent success is his “Noah’s Law” the toughest anti-drunk driving measure in the country, which passed in the just-concluded legislative session, overcoming years of liquor-lobby opposition.

Another element of Jamie Raskin’s leadership is his compelling oratory. He generates enthusiasm and motivates action by walking into a room and opening his mouth. The legions of passionate volunteers who have served in his campaigns demonstrate this. In fact, it is the door-knockers and phone-callers who have made Raskin viable against two opposing campaigns flush with millions of dollars of dirty money. (Kathleen Matthews is the most heavily corporate-PAC funded congressional candidate in the country. David Trone has spent a completely mind-boggling $9.1 million in a blatant attempt to purchase personal glory.)

Indeed, the contrast could not be starker between Raskin, whose life has been dedicated to public service and the two moneybags candidates who have served only themselves and their business interests.

I have written previously about these birds of a feather, both of whom cared so little about policy and politics – prior to seeking their own renown in Congress – that they didn’t bother to vote in two of the last three primaries. Each has been responsible for massive contributions to far-right GOP candidates and officeholders around the country (see Matthews and Trone). Both claim a moral pass on this, because throwing money to bad guys in a corrupt system was what they had to do for business.

There is no moral exemption for helping bad guys in order to enrich yourself or your corporate masters. If you send money to the GOP, you are backing GOP policies, period. While Jamie Raskin has been working hard every day to clean up campaign corruption, Kathleen Matthews and David Trone are its very embodiment.

Your blogger is deeply offended by the mere presence of Matthews and Trone in this race. Their progressive rhetoric is superficial. Their lack of community service reveals their selfishness. Should either be elected, the best a progressive voter could expect would be general support for a Democratic agenda, without any leadership for progressive values. And we could expect both to advocate for the status quo regarding the role of big, corrupting money in our broken democracy.

Jamie Raskin is not the only worthy candidate for Congress in MD-8. Kumar Barve (D-17) has served honorably in the Maryland Senate, making a name for himself as an environmental leader, among other things. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) has been a reliable progressive vote in the House. But both lack Raskin’s power and results. Gutierrez seems in this race to be running solely on her Latina identity, a worthy consideration, but hardly sufficient to justify your vote.

Will Jawando is smart, articulate, and progressive. But he is tainted by having taken Big Pharma money, has provided little or no community service in the area, and seems to offer only his ethnic identity (as an African American) and brief, barely-relevant service in the Obama White House as rationales for his campaign.

Former State Department official Joel Rubin has contributed positively to the race, mostly by criticizing Matthews and Trone.

Coverage of this campaign would not be complete without commenting on pernicious role played by the Washington Post. It is hardly a surprise that the virulently pro-corporate, anti-union newspaper endorsed Matthews – they can count on her to do its bidding and serve its interests, if not explicitly, then certainly in style and attitude. (Another indication of Matthews’s likely fealty to big business if she were elected is her endorsement by former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, the prince of pavement.)

Even though the Post acknowledges that there is hardly an iota of stated policy difference among the candidates, it condemns Raskin for being “doctrinaire.” This flies in the face of his success in building bridges, not only across Maryland’s partisan divide, but also within the Democratic Party. (Raskin has managed to create an enduring alliance with hardly progressive Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller [D-27], a remarkable feat.)

The Post’s influence is more insidious than its editorials. While sole Montgomery County political reporter Bill Turque has done some good reporting on the race. He has also ignored Raskin (at times) or damned him with right-wing language that clearly reflects the Post’s editorial bias.

Jamie Raskin has an extremely bright future, not only as a movement leader, but as an effective legislator who will serve the public good for decades. And if Raskin ever decides to move on from legislating, look for him to serve in the judiciary or in a future Democratic administration.

Maryland D-8 voters must show we cannot be bought. We owe it not only to ourselves but to the country to keep Jamie Raskin on an upward trajectory in service to all of us.

©2106 Keith Berner

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