Elijah Cummings was born to sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South. He put in his life fighting for civil rights and against segregation and went on to become 1 of the most influential customers of Congress, chairing the Household Committee on Oversight and Reform where by he was a important figure in the impeachment inquiry in opposition to President Donald Trump.
His story, substantially like the history of the United States, is prolonged and complicated, full of dim spots but in the long run bending toward justice. Cummings served for 23 many years as a Democrat in Congress, symbolizing his residence point out of Maryland and property city of Baltimore. He was identified as a tough worker, inclined to achieve throughout the aisle when necessary and to bridge gaps involving politics to build friendships. “Those who understood him understood that it was values and patriotism that mattered to him, not bash or politics,” writes Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the introduction to his new e-book, We’re Far better Than This, published in the remaining 12 months of his lifetime.
The ebook delves into his tale and personal heritage, but it largely serves as a warning.
“This is a struggle for the soul of our democracy,” he wrote of President Donald Trump and the present political situation. He utilized his previous times to produce a contact to motion, which he thought was vital to the long run of the United States. His widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, completed the e-book for the congressman, crafting in its ultimate chapter that “with each and every transgression, each disregard for the Constitution, every single try to act earlier mentioned the legislation, just about every denial of real truth, our democracy is endangered. Which is why in the months and several years in advance we should carry on to listen to Elijah’s voice, ‘We’re much better than this.’ We’re far better than this.”
Rockeymoore Cummings ran as a candidate in the unique election to fill her late husband’s seat, coming in second to Kweisi Mfume. She also served as chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.
Fortune spoke with Rockeymoore Cummings about her late husband, his legacy, and his ultimate connect with to action.
The following discussion has been edited for clarity.
What are your views on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the new struggle in the Senate to fill the vacant Supreme Court docket seat with Amy Coney Barrett?
We’re headed in the direction of some thing major and terrifying, and it’s mainly because this President and his legal professional common have indicated that they will be able to battle the benefits of any election as much as they possibly can. That indicates that Justice Ginsburg’s loss of life is primarily significant they want to stack the court docket right before the election. Since of that, our democracy is in peril, just like Elijah normally predicted, and it is in peril ahead of the election even occurs. We’re at a quite severe inflection place in the record of this state. Persons will need to open up their eyes and their ears to see and listen to evidently what is heading on. Our democracy is in danger, and it is remaining put in threat by the incredibly guy sitting in the Oval Business.
Let us chat about this election and the position Congress and the oversight committee in unique may perhaps stop up taking part in in excess of these up coming few months.
The Republican Bash has been unwilling to hold President Trump accountable. We noticed that throughout the impeachment process, and we have seen it in numerous respects throughout investigations by both of those the Senate and the Residence. It’s critical that they keep on to look into and audio the alarm to the American people about what is happening to counter Donald Trump’s initiatives to thwart their investigations. The Trump administration has failed to comply with democratic norms. They won’t answer to subpoenas. Some of their administration officials have refused to testify.
There does feel to be this expanding distrust of both equally the governing administration and our electoral method in typical. How does Congress alter that going into this presidential election?
Our institutions are only as very good as the people today who operate them. And we have a nation remaining run by a man who is intent on fostering and disseminating disinformation, who operates via chaos and confusion so that he can manage the levers of electrical power for his personal advantage and for that of his social gathering. He already acknowledged privately to Bob Woodward back in January that he understood that COVID-19 was airborne and that it was perilous, and nevertheless we’ve witnessed him and his administration truly rescind that expertise. We see him attempting to confuse persons about how it’s transmitted, and we see him instantly putting people in danger by keeping rallies the place they could probably get COVID-19 and die. People today are rightly puzzled mainly because they are applied to trusting the information of the man or woman sitting down in the Oval Office environment.
Elijah’s information to the American individuals was that this male, Donald J. Trump, can never ever be trustworthy. He’s demonstrated on a day by day basis that he is eager to explain to hundreds of lies. And the man or woman sitting in the Oval Office environment now are not able to be trusted with our children’s long run, with our country’s long run, or with our own future.
Chairman Cummings wrote about the relevance of discovering the humanity in voters and connecting with them—even if they weren’t likely to vote for him. What do you think he would have stated about this increasing partisan divide in the region? How can we bridge these gaps?
What is so unhappy about this current second is that we also have stealth political actors, whether or not they be international governments or our individual disinformation specialists from inside the nation, who are trafficking conspiracy theories like QAnon. They are intent on capturing the minds of the American general public who are vulnerable to conspiracy theories in a way that can make them resistant to points.
But what’s challenged their means to continue that effort and hard work is the coronavirus, which is resistant to human spin. So in spite of what they say about not putting on masks or whether it’s airborne or forcing young ones to go to college or people to open up their companies, the coronavirus is going to do what it does. We’re going to see a lot more unnecessary deaths, and the financial state is likely to keep on to experience since we have individuals and establishments that are intent on trying to keep the American folks misinformed.
The President stated things about your late spouse that ended up cruel. Your husband was vocal about how a lot they hurt him. There is some power in letting the President’s words and phrases have energy as an alternative of brushing them off…
Words make the planet go round. What we say is the currency of what comes about in life. With regards to Elijah, I consider the hurt and the suffering that came from President Trump’s attacks were being rooted in getting the boy or girl of the Jim Crow South. Spots where by African-Individuals are living, like Baltimore, have been regularly defined as staying a lot less than and outdoors of the system politic. That hurts people today because it effects in persons in ability creating decisions that deliberately deprive American citizens of the assets they need to prosper. By his childhood, those people forms of attitudes and that form of language resulted in separate and unequal schools. It resulted in segregated neighborhoods. It resulted in youngsters like Elijah acquiring rocks thrown at them when they tried to integrate.
It however results in tangible harm and is a serious menace to persons who are persecuted. And the President is engaged in persecution. He’s been persecuting the city of Baltimore. He’s been persecuting immigrants. He’s been persecuting persons of shade, and all those phrases are not just harmless. They consequence in actions by people today who comply with what the President states and act accordingly.
This guide came out weeks right before the election. What lessons do you want men and women to consider absent from it?
I want this e book to alter the training course of heritage. I want this ebook to deny President Trump the capacity to activity and to cheat the method and the electoral faculty in get to get reelected. I want this reserve to attain men and women in each individual state, crimson and blue, throughout the place.
I want Elijah’s words to rise higher than partisanship. This is his message to American people from over and above the grave: They definitely must defeat Donald Trump. Our democracy depends on it.
He firmly believed that if Donald Trump managed to get reelected then we would no for a longer period have a democracy. He desired the American men and women to know that. He invested the very last calendar year of his lifestyle pouring his heart and soul into this ebook so they could hear it, and now it’s time to get that concept out.
What do you consider will materialize if President Trump does gain reelection?
I consider that we’ve currently found a preview of what’s heading to occur: He’s heading to turn out to be more and more autocratic. We have presently entered the realm of turning out to be a pariah country, and I assume that will become a more substantial challenge underneath a second phrase. He’s indicated that he would like to be President for lifetime, which is versus the Structure. We know that he has flouted the legislation we can be expecting to see that carry on.
It is likely to be a terrible circumstance, and Us citizens are likely to suffer deeply.
But Elijah’s information is that we’re improved than that. We can be much better as extensive as we do much better. His lifestyle was a testament about how we can attain terrific points as a country when we unify, when we drive forward, and when we breathe lifestyle into these four words: a additional perfect union.
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