Loud cheers greeted Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Jamie Raskin, at WDC’s June 6 biennial meeting at the Bethesda Marriott. To the capacity crowd, both praised outgoing president Fran Rothstein (Raskin through an original rap routine) as achampion for countless Democratic victories. Congratulating Fran and incoming president Diana Conway, they urged WDC to follow our leaders in facing the crises of our time.
President Trump’s conduct, said Senator Van Hollen, reveals the depth of these crises. “We have a President who denigrates the service of heroes like Senator John McCain,” ordering the Navy to place a tarp over the name of the U.S.S. John McCain when Trump visited Japan. Now the President wants to make our national July 4 celebration about himself by speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But “we need to make this July 4 the first day of our fight for independence from Donald J. Trump,” Van Hollen said.
We have already had key victories, said the senator, citing the January 2017 Women’s March and the successful fight to save the Affordable Care Act . The House keeps issuing subpoenas, and a court recently rejected Trump’s move to block Deutsche Bank from providing records to Congress on the President’s businesses. This ruling affirmed Congress’s right to investigate the President.
But the main event, said Van Hollen, is the 2020 election. We (and the media) have to get the word out that House Democrats HAVE kept their campaign promises by passing a raft of legislation that Americans want.
Senator Mitch McConnell thwarts the will of the people by killing all these bills. Americans need to know that the Democrats—not the Republicans—are standing up for them. “The moment is dire,” said Van Hollen. We have to take the Senate, hold the House, and send a Democrat to the White House. We have to unite behind our nominees. “To save our nation, everyone has to be part of this fight.”
Congressman Raskin Fires Up the “Democracy”
“Republicans in Congress have a speech impediment,” joked our keynote speaker Congressman Raskin, “that makes them call us the “Democrat” party.” It is said that they do that because it makes us mad…. I tell my Republican colleagues that if they persist, we will start calling ourselves, ‘The Democracy,’ as FDR called our party when confronting the plutocrats of his time.”
“The Democracy” and our nation are in trouble, Raskin stressed, as we face an unprecedented constitutional crisis. “Never before in our history has a President so extensively defied Congressional authority,” he said. Trump has been promoting the fallacy that Congress has no right to investigate a president—a claim soundly rejected in a recent decision by a federal judge.
Article 1 of the Constitution, said Raskin, states that “all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States”—then lists ten detailed sections on Congressional responsibility. In simple terms, said Raskin, the Congress works for the people and the president works for Congress. But through his sweeping defiance of Congress, Trump has overturned our Constitution and our system of checks and balances.
Regardless of where Congressional Democrats stand on impeachment, said Raskin, they are united in recognizing the gravity of this moment. “In a democracy, the law is king, but in an autocracy, the king is the law.” When a President tramples on the rule of law and usurps Congressional powers, we have to confront the threat to our democracy.
The Mueller report details 11 episodes of presidential obstruction of justice. That is why it’s time for an impeachment inquiry (not necessarily impeachment itself), said Raskin, to determine whether the President committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
Impeachment is the last lie of constitutional defense against a President who tramples the rule of law and acts like a king.
“When everything looks hopeless,” Raskin’s father once said, “then you are the hope.” We are the hope to confront this crisis, so let’s get out there and keep fighting for our democracy.”