Submitted to the AFRO by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings
Confronting the Dangers to our Democratic Republic
During the last 20 months, the American people have marched, organized and demanded serious reforms in their government. The new Congress that we will elect on November 6 must respond to these demands by more seriously and comprehensively addressing the challenges that are central to our daily lives.
Americans from every ethnic and religious background have been crying out for a Congress that will confront the widening disparities in our incomes – as well as the serious, unresolved challenges that confront us in public education, health care, law enforcement and our environment.
Yet, even as we continue our march for greater social justice, the overriding challenge that we must begin to overcome on Election Day this year is far more fundamental.
At the close of our nation’s Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked whether the Framers had proposed a Republic or a Monarchy – and Mr. Franklin is said to have replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Today, in 2018, we still have a Republic – if we can keep it.
The functioning – indeed the very legitimacy – of our democratic system has been under siege for some time. We must confront and overcome the continuing attacks on our elections, from sources both foreign and domestic – as well as the failure of our Congress and President to adequately defend us against those attacks.
This fight for the very soul of our democracy has been raised, inescapably, by the actions of the President of the United States – both while in office and, it may be determined, by his prior conduct.
Equally dangerous, if not more so, the threats to our Democracy have been allowed to metastasize by the failure of the current Republican majorities in the Senate and House to fulfill our constitutional duty to investigate and cure Executive abuse.
For the unity and future of our Democratic Republic, the Congress that we elect on November 6 must reassert our constitutional power and obligation of oversight. We must demand and obtain answers to the serious questions that, until now, have gone unanswered.
Most important of all, we must perform this constitutional duty so effectively and convincingly that those Americans who support this President and those who disagree will reach a shared and united answer as to how our nation must proceed.
Our March for Democracy Restored
During Early Voting this month and on Election Day, November 6, the citizens of our country must elect women and men who are serious about defending and restoring the constitutional foundations of our Democracy.
Then, those who are elected to serve us must live up to the lasting example set for us by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who declared (in 1974): “My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, [or] the destruction of the Constitution.”
If we draw upon the spirit of 1787 (renewed in 1964-1968) and vote in record numbers this year, we can and will restore our Democracy and the constitutional protections that are so essential to our liberty and lives.
As citizens of a still great Republic, we must be clear: This is our time – and this is our challenge to meet and overcome.
Even as Americans were forced to rise up in the past, the threats to our Democracy once again demand that we respond.
Once again, as in our past, our nation is struggling to overcome forces of societal conflict, official inhumanity and calculated distrust that far surpass anything that we have been forced to endure in the last five decades.
Once again, there are those in national power who seek to dominate our nation by dividing us from our countrymen and women.
Once again, the American People must respond to false leaders whose governing strategy is grounded in the Hobbesian dictum, “Bellum omnium contra omnes,” the war of all against all.
Once again, hundreds of millions of Americans are going to sleep at night haunted by whatever appalling developments the morning may bring.
I frankly indict these dangers to our Democratic Republic. Those of us who were raised up to adulthood and citizenship in Dr. King’s time are not naïve. We are not afraid; and above all, we are not defeated.
We have endured and overcome such threats before, and we understand our duty to restore and perfect the evolving writ of American history.
As Dr. King so often reminded us in my youth, our nation’s darkest hours have often been just before the dawn. So it will be again this year as we stand together, march together, vote together and demand the Light of Democracy restored.
As we have done so often in our past, we who are Americans of Color must once again lead this march into the voting booths of our nation on Election Day this year.
We, who once were barred from full citizenship, must now march in the forefront of a movement of democratic restoration for all Americans.
We must lead because, as Dr. King often reminded the powerful, indifferent and inhumane of our society: “There is nothing more powerful than the rhythm of marching feet, the marching feet of a determined people.”
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
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