So far 2017 has been a difficult year for Democrats. But a rediscovered love of the U.S. Constitution by liberals in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory is a sign that there is hope for the country, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told a town hall meeting Monday in Rockville.
“The silver lining that I want to pull out of our first 120 days here in the new era is a revival in what I call constitutional patriotism,” Raskin, a constitutional law professor-turned-politician said at Tikvat Israel Congregation. “The love of our constitution and Bill of Rights is something that binds all of us together.”
Monday night’s event was the freshman congressman’s second at a Maryland synagogue in as many days. He participated in a climate symposium Sunday at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda that was sponsored by American Jewish World Service.
Raskin received frequent applause from the politically sympathetic audience, particularly when he said that Trump has “unwittingly paid the highest possible praise to the founders” when he signed a ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.
The protests that followed at airports across the country, he said, were poignant examples of the First Amendment’s right to protest peacefully against a policy that violated the amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.
“That was another extraordinary moment in the history of our republic,” said Raskin, who took part in the protests. “I don’t even like going to airports to go on an airplane, you know, but we had tens of thousands of people going to protest this policy, which was promptly struck down through the scrupulous enforcement of constitutional provisions by federal judges.”
Addressing the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which the House of Representatives narrowly voted to repeal and replace last week, Raskin said the U.S. healthcare system should be similar to the one in France, where he and his family were when his daughter came down with an earache.
“My friends said, call the SOS, the national health service,” he said. “Twenty minutes later a doctor arrived to examine her. Within a half an hour we had been diagnosed and gotten a prescription. In America, it’s more like come to the office two weeks from Thursday and miss work and sit with 20 other screaming children where you can get some more germs.”
Raskin also urged the importance for bipartisanship and he told about a conversation he had on climate change with a Republican colleague.
“I said to him, ‘We can disagree about almost anything, but on climate change you guys have got to quit screwing around with the fake news and the propaganda.’ And he said, ‘Well, we’ve got our scientists and you’ve got your scientists.’ And I said, ‘No, let’s look at the professional scientists, I went to the EPA website, I went to the Department of Defense website, I went to the Department of Energy website, and all of them are saying that this is an emergency.”
When Raskin told the audience his colleague’s response, there was a collective gasp.
“He said, ‘Jamie, I don’t want to get in a big fight with you. I don’t want to argue with you. But professionals built the Titanic. Amateurs built Noah’s Ark.’”
Raskin also said he hopes the parties can work together to solve the issue of district gerrymandering. He said this would be best achieved by creating multimember congressional districts.
“It doesn’t make sense there are no Democratic representatives from the state of Utah when they’re 42 percent [of the population]. And there are no Republicans from Massachusetts.”
Tikvat Israel member Sam Gilston agreed with Raskin,
“Even though I’m a strong Democrat and I’m glad that I have a lot of Democratic congressmen, gerrymandering on a national basis is really a crime,” he said. “It’s abused by both parties.”
Rockville resident Joan Esquivar said Raskin was both “entertaining and uplifting” in his message that despite the political situation, citizens have been empowered.
“It’s very trying times for everyone,” she said. “It’s very stressful. And I think that [Raskin is] bringing clarity and he’s showing the importance of the power of the people.”