Q&A: Rep. Jamie Raskin Encourages Students to Get Political

This past November, Georgetown Day School alumnus Jamie Raskin was re-elected to as the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 8th congressional district, which includes areas of Montgomery County adjacent to the District. With Democrats gaining control of the House of Representatives in the recent midterm elections, Congressman Raskin will now be in the majority for the first time in his tenure. The Augur Bit recently interviewed Congressman Raskin about his role in the new Congress and his views about how Georgetown Day School students can become more engaged in politics.

Were you surprised by the results of the 2018 midterm elections?

Not surprised but thrilled nonetheless. As Democrats, we had successfully organized and mobilized across America, not just in blue districts but in swing districts and red districts. Grassroots organizing with seriously talented and engaged candidates was our path to victory. In our Democracy Summer Program, which 175 high school and college kids participated in, we educated and deployed a new generation of youthful organizers to work in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Iowa. So I saw the big blue wave forming in House races months ago. What surprised me was the amazing effectiveness of GOP voter suppression and derailment strategies in gubernatorial and Senate races in Florida, Georgia and North Dakota.

How does the result of the 2018 midterm election change your role in the House of Representatives?

Well, my basic role in the House—to zealously and faithfully represent the people of Maryland’s 8th District—is unchanged, but I have just been elected to be part of the Democratic leadership team by my colleagues, and that’s very exciting. Being in the majority gives us the power to set the agenda and pass a lot of legislation that has been stymied over the last two years, like independent redistricting panels in every state, the comprehensive mental and criminal background check on all gun purchases, the DREAM Act and a pro-environmental infrastructure plan that is a green deal for America. In the meantime, I have been serving as Vice-Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee in my first Term, so I hope that carries over now to the position of Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee. I’m also on the Oversight Committee and the Committee on Administration. I suppose I will be able to get a lot more done in the majority (fingers crossed), but we still have to navigate the GOP-run Senate and that very stable genius in the White House.

What do you think the House majority’s priorities should be for the next two years?

House Democrats are unified in working to advance our positive agenda for America: quality health care for all and prescription drug reform; voting rights and democracy reform to strengthen and reenact the Voting Rights Act and counter Citizens United and the flood of special interest money saturating our campaigns; dramatic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to address the crisis of climate change and help us break from the carbon barons; massive investment in our ailing infrastructure with a Green Deal for America; sweeping gun violence reduction; and comprehensive immigration reform.

But even as we play a muscular offense on these problems, we will need to carefully defend the Constitution and the rule of law against the lawlessness and corruption of the Trump Administration. They’ve turned our government into a money-making operation for the president and his friends and family, and this is the antithesis of the constitutional design. We have to rescue our constitutional democracy.

What advice do you have for Georgetown Day School students who want to be engaged in the political process in the next two years?

We need you! So don’t ever stop organizing or studying or talking politics with friends. Check out our Democracy Summer program, which teaches young people about the history of social change, the critical problems of the day (from climate change to gun violence to gerrymandering and the electoral college) and how to become a serious canvasser, voter registrar, organizer and leader. Check out internships and 2020 political campaigns and remember: if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.

Are there any issues that you hope to address in Congress in the future that will affect the students currently at Georgetown Day School?

Yes, pretty much everything we’re going to do will affect you. Climate change is a global civilizational emergency that will profoundly affect your future, so we need to act quickly and comprehensively. We need to address student loan debt and college affordability. Health care, voting rights, gun violence—you name it. I’m serving in Congress now with a bunch of young people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are much closer in age to you than me, and they have this wonderful sense of urgency and immediacy about our work. So get ready because in ten or fifteen years it’s going to be your turn to take care of our democracy.

By Will Olsen ’21