Rep. Jamie Raskin
At the end of it all, you just wanted to take a breath.
In the long-expected but still disappointing conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial, a bipartisan majority of 57 senators, short of the 67 needed for conviction, found Donald Trump to become the insurrection-inciting despotic demagogue the facts showed him to be.
Sure, there are those whose lips are so firmly attached to the money trench Trump has at his command they might never have voted to convict him. But they know the truth.
The world knows.
It is my thought that Trump will never be president again. He is damaged and divisive, and while his base remains loyal, he's nationally unliked and has lost the most popular vote in two elections. But there are lots of people who supported him from within his administration and in the Senate itching to try and use Trump's base to launch a presidential run-which all but guarantees the continuing relevance of Trumpian politics.
To get out of the mindset that has dominated national politics since the Gingrich era-that politics is a hyperpartisan zero-sum game, a mindset that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump-we need politicians more dedicated to the republic than to their personal power.
Two men I've known a long in Congress and who played prominent parts in the recent Senate trial and it is outcome are indicative of what I mean. One represents what we can no longer tolerate. The other represents what we should need.
Yes, one is a Republican and something is a Democrat. But what really separates them is how each stands in terms of caring about and acting in the public interest. They are at opposite ends from the spectrum.
At one end you've Mitch McConnell, who, though he loathes Mr . trump, voted to acquit him. He did this while he wanted to maintain control of the GOP and feared he'd be minimized by Trump's supporters if he voted otherwise.
At the other end you have Jamie Raskin, a relatively new face in the home who beat the odds to become a member of Congress and then, despite an extreme personal tragedy, put together a devastating case against Trump.
itch McConnell started his political life playing the same games he plays today. He was a ruthless opportunist who sought to overthrow the leadership in the Kentucky GOP in the 1960s, failed, and have become a \”moderate\” Republican to win election as the county judge/executive in Jefferson County before he was elected towards the U.S. Senate back in 1984.
His shift that year was remarkable. Roger Ailes put together a duplicitous ad campaign that helped McConnell come from 40 points behind in the polls to win. His was the only real Senate seat the GOP picked up in Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide election. With time, McConnell dropped any pretense of being an average as he followed the money further and additional to the right.
In 1978, the night before my first interview with McConnell, I spoke with someone who knew him well-an uncle who had caused him in the Jefferson County Republican party. \”The thing you should know about Mitch McConnell is he's about only one thing,\” I was told. \”What's that?\” Gurus.
\”Mitch McConnell is always and only about Mitch McConnell.\”
For nearly a half century those watchwords have helped me understand McConnell. They explain why he does what he does. Sure, he's smart and understands how to count votes-and that explains how he can do what he has done. But to understand the why, you need to understand that for McConnell it is all about power and personal gain.
When Trump marched McConnell to the Rose Garden in 2021 and appeared to have him on a leash, one could see the senator chafing at having to play nice. But McConnell wanted a slew of judges appointed to federal courts across the country, and to get his way he smiled at Trump.
It was never that McConnell sold his soul to Trump . It's that McConnell played Trump. McConnell's weakness happens to be that he will do anything to stay in power and anything to get what he wants-even slow-walking the impeachment trial of a man he despises so it couldn't begin until Trump was from office, and then voting to acquit him.
Of course, McConnell attempted to have it both ways. He tried to protect his reputation among Trump supporters, especially those in Congress, by voting to acquit. Then he tried to give the impression of caring about his institution by looking into making a floor speech lambasting Trump for his actions during the insurrection. That earned him a clear, crisp rebuke from Trump yesterday. \”Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and when Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they're not going to win again,\” Trump declared. The cannibals have started to devour each other.
hen there's Jamie Raskin. When I first met him 15 years ago, he would be a law professor at American University and a new member of the Maryland state legislature. Representing parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, he was also very active in assisting the newspaper people in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association in keeping newspapers viable.
He introduced a medicinal marijuana bill that Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law. He fought for a variety of issues, including legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland.
When longtime congressman Chris Van Hollen decided to run for the Senate in 2021, Raskin was certainly one of nine Democrats vying for Van Hollen's vacated House seat. Kathleen Matthews, formerly a fixture of local TV news, led the polls for months. Raskin was either a distant second or a close second, depending on the poll. Then David J. Trone, a Maryland businessman, entered the race and tossed enough money into it to make it the most expensive House race in history. Raskin was heavily outspent by both Matthews and Trone.
What saved Raskin was his base of supporters and his public appearances. I hosted candidate forums during this race and Raskin remained remarkably steady, calm, and rational even when others got emotional. Trone, who didn't like just how long one of the candidate forums was going, signaled to me with his watch that I should wrap it up. When the Washington Post pointed this out, Trone started to tank in the polls, but he took an adequate amount of Matthews's votes that Raskin won.
Since then Raskin has worked across the aisle and gained a reputation in the House as professorial and collegial. In 2021, he cosponsored an invoice to protect journalists with Republican Jim Jordan-and Jordan, who never says nice things about Democrats, was effusive in his praise of Raskin and their collaboration.
Raskin, in short, is just the complete opposite of McConnell. He remains the rarest of congressmen-logical, practical, and smart.
On January 5, the day before the storming of the Capitol, Raskin faced the unthinkable task of burying his son, whom he lost to depression. Yet in the aftermath of the attack, Raskin never shied from doing his job-even though nobody would've faulted him had he chose to sit out the second impeachment.
He place the needs of the republic ahead of their own needs-which makes him exactly the kind of lawmaker and leader the country needs moving forward.
Mitch McConnell is among the most selfish and irresponsible men ever voted into office. He's a symbol of the past, an emblem of a broken political structure-of how partisan and petty personal concerns can destroy america.
Raskin is the hope for the future-putting the country first, even putting it above personal concerns.
Those are the kinds of actions it will take to save our republic.