Submitted to the AFRO by Congressman Elijah Cummings

During Women’s History Month, it is worth recalling why an historian’s perspective is so valuable. When we pay attention and act wisely, the lessons from history that we learn empower us to more fully recognize our present failings and dangers – and, duly warned, to chart a better way forward.

Historian Anne Applebaum issued such a warning in her Feb. 28 Washington Post essay, “Trump has done irreparable damage to America’s reputation.”

A respected expert on foreign policy, Professor Applebaum wrote about the long-term dangers to our nation and the world created by the president’s erratic decision-making and behavior.

In significant ways, she concluded, President Trump has broken with long-standing U.S. policy toward Europe, the Middle East and Asia – and, more often than not, he has done so on the basis of personal opinions that are factually flawed.

As a result, the Professor argued, the President has significantly weakened our nation’s standing in the world in ways that will transcend his presidency and be extremely difficult for subsequent administrations to reverse.

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

We should take note of the fact that these criticisms and warnings are not unique to Anne Applebaum. They have been advanced by many other experts in foreign policy.

What is especially compelling about Professor Applebaum’s warnings, however, is that they extend beyond her views about President Trump’s limitations. They challenge both the viability of the political system that elected him and the political party that supports him without question to this day.

“We will not be able to erase the hard truth of the fact that the American people elected to the highest office a man who is, as his personal lawyer put it (at our recent Oversight and Reform Committee hearing), a con man, a fraud and a racist,” she observed. “We will not find it possible to forget that one of our two great political parties, with decades of history and achievement behind it, maintained him in office even knowing that this was the case.”

We need not – and should not – accept without question either Michael Cohen’s critique of the president or Professor Applebaum’s conclusion about the political negligence of congressional Republicans.

Even apart from their observations, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the character, competence and wisdom of this president and his administration are serious concerns – and that congressional Republicans have failed to adequately respond.

Consistent with both Professor Applebaum’s critique and the lessons of our recent history, we have learned that our democratic process is in serious need of reform.

We must chart a better way forward as a nation.

First of all, we have learned that the actions of this administration, as well as how it came into power, justify vigorous oversight by the Congress until the whole truth is known.

Second, we now understand that we must redouble our commitment to serious, far-reaching reform in the way that our government is elected and held accountable to the American people whom we all are obligated to serve.

We must better protect our sacred right to have our voices heard at the ballot box by correcting the ill-advised Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision that hobbled the federal Voting Rights Act –and in response to this understanding, the Democratic House Majority is now moving forward to pass Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4).

Third, we must recognize that additional reforms beyond re-empowering the Voting Rights Act will be required if we truly are going to put power back in the hands of the American people and restore their faith that their government is acting in their interests alone.

In response to this recognition, the House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, an historic package of democratic, anti-corruption reforms. When enacted into law, the For the People Act will reduce the power of dark, special interest money in politics, make it easier, not harder to vote, and move forward with restoring greater ethics and integrity to decision-making in Washington.

We are responding to a better vision for our government, reforms that the American people deserve:
–       a Congress that works together more effectively for the common good, and
–       a president who understands and respects that he is not a monarch but is as bound by our Constitution and laws as is every other American.

Finally, consistent with these political reforms, the Democratic House Majority is also committed to passing substantive legislation that will speak directly to the day-to-day challenges that are at the center of people’s lives: their ability to earn a living wage, educate their children, afford their healthcare and housing and protect their environment.

We Democrats are charting this better course forward despite the threat that these reforms will be blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump.

They should keep this political reality in mind.

If Republicans continue to resist our better way forward during this 116th Congress, the American people will decide in November of next year whether ours is the better course that they want.

This, after all, is the way that democracy is supposed to work – and we Democrats are determined that it shall.

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

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