Congress has a handful of rock-solid champions of democracy. There’s Michigan Congressman John Conyers and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. There’s Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan. In the Senate, there’s New Mexico’s Tom Udall and, of course, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. You can count a few more in the camp. But no one would argue that either chamber has a sufficient contingent of advocates for the principle that government should be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
So it is worth noting that one of America’s most ardent advocates for democracy just jumped into a contest for the US House. Maryland legislator Jamie Raskin—whom The Washington Post recognizes as the Maryland Senate’s “constitutional authority”—is bidding for the Democratic nomination to succeed Congresswoman Chris Van Hollen.
Raskin says right up front that he is making the race “because America needs effective progressive leadership to renew the momentum of popular democracy in America.”
Raskin is not the only candidate in the Maryland contest. The field could get crowded, as this is the sort of “safe seat” that does not come open all that often. Raskin could face credible progressive opposition for the Democratic nod. He will have to make his case in this particular contest, and there are no assurances that he will prevail.
There is an assurance, however, that Raskin will bring to the competition plenty of big ideas about how to defend, strengthen and expand American democracy. And, if he is elected, Raskin will bring experience and energy to congressional debates about voting rights, fair elections and getting big money out of politics.
A constitutional law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law (where he directs the Law and Government Program), Raskin has represented Greenpeace and the Service Employees International Union and high school students fighting for the freedom to talk about LGBT rights, He has a long history of waging difficult legal and legislative battles on behalf of progressive ideals. As a state senator, he has earned high marks for leading historic floor fights to establish marriage equality, to abolish the death penalty and to preserve civil rights and liberties.
When Raskin announced for Congress, he was immediately endorsed by Maryland Senate majority leader Catherine Pugh, who declared that “we need him to bring the same passion and eloquence he brought to Annapolis to the fight for justice and democracy at the national level.”