On Feb. 25, Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin stepped out of the U.S. House of Representatives’ chambers to join an exclusive People For the American Way member briefing on his role as head impeachment manager in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. People For President Ben Jealous, Executive Vice President Marge Baker, and Senior Director of Field Mobilization Diallo Brooks also provided remarks and answered questions from attendees during the briefing.
Jealous thanked Raskin for his leadership and expertise in the impeachment trial and for his heroism, particularly in the midst of personal tragedy. He remarked that Republicans’ refusal to hold Trump accountable “speaks to a comfort with fascism that we cannot tolerate,” and called Raskin and the other house impeachment managers patriots for rising to the occasion after the insurrection.
Similarly, Baker noted that our leaders “had a responsibility to tell the story” of Trump’s incitement of the insurrection, and thanked Raskin for doing so in a “heartfelt and brilliant way.” Brooks added that “it was great to see our democracy in action” during the trial, especially as Raskin and the other House impeachment managers painstakingly laid out a timeline of the fatal attack at the Capitol.
Raskin, a former Senior Fellow at People For and longtime friend of the organization, remarked that “our democracy is constantly expanding or shrinking … and we saw the latter on Jan. 6.” He described the real meaning of democracy as “meeting the needs of the people,” and said that even amid unthinkable personal tragedy following the death of his son just days before the insurrection, he understood the historic importance of holding Trump accountable for instigating the attack.
Raskin also stressed that we must strengthen our democracy now to prevent another far-right demagogue from undermining our country, or even prevent Trump himself from regaining political power. “We’re not out of the woods,” he explained, and “the adversaries of democracy would love nothing more than for Donald Trump to return to power.”
In the aftermath of the insurrection, many People For members and progressive activists nationwide are asking ourselves, “In the wake of the trial and the Senate’s failure to convict Trump, what can we do to defend our democracy today, right now?” A longtime organizer himself, Raskin said that we are already doing what needs to be done: “assembling our people, mobilizing our people, to defend the constitution.” But we must continue to organize outside of major election cycles, because – as Baker later noted – elections happen at the state and local levels every year, and those have just as much impact on our government as those at the federal level.
“We need to get the trajectory of democratic expansion going again in the right direction,” said Rep. Raskin while describing democracy reform legislation currently moving through Congress. The For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act are two bills that will be undergoing consideration soon, both of which Rep. Raskin and People For are fighting to support and advance.
The next year is going to be filled with difficult legislative fights for bills like these, Raskin observed, but they will be well worth the hard work. He also thanked People For for “being on the front lines of defeating authoritarianism,” adding that he “long[s] for the day that the values of People For the American Way are the values of everyone in the country.”
Over time, the United States has continued to move in the right direction for a better democracy, Raskin noted, but “we’ve got to sweep these [systemic inequities] away if we’re going to make real progress.”
Now more than ever, Rep. Raskin said, we all need to be Constitutional patriots, to allow us to more effectively advance “the real agenda of democracy: meeting the needs of the people.”
And please sign our thank you card to Rep. Raskin and all of the House Impeachment Managers for their vital role in fighting for accountability and the preservation of our democracy.
Keep an eye on People For’s channels for more ways you can plug in to the fight for democracy defense and reform this year!