Submitted to the AFRO by Congressman Elijah Cummings

Our Democratic Mandate

On Election Night last month, I observed that the emerging American majority that we were witnessing was not the end of our struggle to restore our Democracy, but the potential for a renewed beginning.

In the years to come, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that, in 2018, we cast our ballots in large numbers for a government that will be less regressive, more equitable, more transparent and more humane.

This was the bottom-line conclusion in election eve polling conducted by the African American Research Collaborative [].

Our get-out-the-vote campaigns brought record numbers of black voters to the polls –  nearly twice as many African Americans as those of us who voted in 2014 [].

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD.-7) . (Courtesy Photo)

To be fair, it should be noted that the exceptionally high African American turnout did not occur in isolation.  The 2018 “Blue Wave” was also driven by women of conscience in both major political parties, younger voters and those of us with advanced education.

Nevertheless, despite close (but still heart-breaking) election losses for progressive, Black candidates in Georgia, Florida, Maryland and Mississippi, 2018 will be remembered as the year in which Americans of Color led our nation beyond resistance to reform.

As a result, in addition to gaining 7 Democratic Governorships and hundreds of state and local legislative seats, Democratic forces won the popular vote by more than 9.2 million votes.  We gained a resounding 235-200 majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the largest Democratic wave since the Nixon era.

Our Calling to Lead in the Years to Come

Beginning next year, Americans will now have a more effective “check and balance” on President Trump and his Administration.  The voters have restored the constitutional safeguard against tyranny and abuse that is so essential to any citizen-governed society.

In responding to the electoral mandate that we have received, Americans of Color will now have a leading, front-line responsibility to translate our nation’s desire for democratic reform into reality.

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina will be our Democratic Majority Whip, and a powerful and conscientious voice on our leadership team.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York will be our next Democratic Caucus Chair – and Rep. Karen Bass of California will be the next Chair of our Congressional Black Caucus, leading the largest and most powerful CBC in our history.

Five CBC members – myself included – are poised to chair full House Committees, while 28 CBC members will chair House Subcommittees.

Restoring Our Democracy

During the current Congress, I have been honored to serve as a Co-Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force, chaired by my Maryland colleague, Congressman John Sarbanes.  Our primary objective has been clear: to develop and advocate for the legislative measures needed to restore our Democracy [].

As Congressman Sarbanes and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi declared in thier November 25 Washington Post op-ed, our first order of business next year will be to clean up the corruption in Washington, reduce the roll of money in politics, restore ethics and integrity to our government, and strengthen our voting laws [].

Republicans in the Senate and White House may attempt to block our package of necessary reforms.  They should be advised that we will not relent.

Rather, we will ask the American people to give us the Senate gavel and the presidential pen in 2020.

Either next year or in 2020, a more functional and fair democracy will be restored.

Living Up to Our Constitutional Responsibilities

The voters have given us a mandate – to conduct credible, independent, robust, and responsible oversight of the Trump Administration.  For the last two years, congressional oversight of this Administration has been virtually nonexistent.  In 2019, that will change.

The American people have voted for transparency and accountability – for a government that works effectively, efficiently, and with integrity.  In response, the new Democratic House Majority will not hesitate to exercise our constitutional power and responsibility to shine a light on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Trump Administration.

We will take action to hold accountable any Administration officials (including the President) who appear to have abused their positions of power and wasted taxpayer money.

At the same time, we also must redouble our efforts to more effectively and humanely address the daily challenges at the center of Americans’ lives.

A more progressive Congress will work to strengthen, not seek to destroy, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  We will fight to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, lower prices on prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and support the job training (and re-training) that are the foundation for living wages.

Criminal justice reform, protection of our natural heritage and more rational and humane immigration policies will once again be at the center of our national agenda.

Above all else, as I have noted, we will enact legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act to its full power, prevent further foreign interference in our electoral process and hold accountable anyone who seeks to subvert our most fundamental civil right.

The American People have given us the foundation for a restoration of our Democracy.  Now, we, who have been given their trust, must build upon that foundation and give all Americans the government that they deserve.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives

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Congressman Elijah Cummings

Special to the AFRO