‘The coup is still underway’: McGovern, Raskin debate democracy with large crowd in Northampton

  • U.S Representative Jim McGovern speaks during a town hall with U.S Representative Jamie Raskin to a full house at First Churches in Northampton Tuesday night. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • U.S Representative Jamie Raskins speaks at a town hall to a full house at First Churches in Northampton Tuesday night. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., right, speaks to a full house at a town hall Tuesday at First Churches of Northampton. He joined U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, seated center, for the event. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks at a town hall at First Churches of Northampton, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2022 9:01:19 AM
Modified: 6/2/2022 9:01:27 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A town hall event Tuesday between two powerful Democratic congressmen was billed as a discussion with constituents about defending democracy.

But it was as much a pep rally as it was a back-and-forth with audience members.

Constituents packed First Churches of Northampton, standing shoulder to shoulder down most the aisles and spilling out into the lobby, to see U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and fellow Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, speak about the state of U.S. democracy.

“This is a critical time in our country,” McGovern said, referencing the recent mass shooting of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and attacks on democracy from gerrymandering to big money in politics and the Jan. 6 insurrection. “This is not how our democracy is supposed to work.”

McGovern said that “the coup is still underway” when it comes to Republicans’ attempts to steal elections. Not content with nullifying the will of voters, he said they are working to prevent people from voting altogether and appointing election deniers to influential positions nationwide. But people shouldn’t give up hope, he said.

“We have to be faithful,” he said. “I have faith in this country.”

Raskin, a former constitutional law professor who led Democrats’ second effort to impeach former president Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection, took much of the first hour to speak about the insurrection, its aftermath and the efforts to hold its participants accountable.

“The social contract is fraying in America,” Raskin said. The country, he added, came “very close to being a failed state” during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration.

Raskin said that the insurrection brought together thousands of people and extremist groups looking to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power. Trump never planned to accept his election loss and after the courts rejected his challenges to the outcome, he continued to push his efforts to overturn the election at the state level, Raskin said.

Trump and his supporters, Raskin said, “wanted to pull a rabbit out of the hat to go outside the constitutional order and to wage war on it.”

“That’s why they needed violence,” Raskin said. Later, he urged those listening to refuse to let people say that what happened on Jan. 6 was just a demonstration that got out of control. “This was an organized attack on American constitutional democracy and we’ve got to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.”

Raskin said that democracy “is under siege all over the world.”

“And all the autocrats, kleptocrats, theocrats, the bullies and the tyrants and the despots have found each other, from Moscow to Mar-a-Lago,” he said.

There were several ovations for Raskin and McGovern throughout the evening. Raskin drew particular applause when he responded to one man’s shouted question about the federal government recently passing a $40 billion aid package, the majority of it military support, to send to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion. He said he was proud to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people against “fascist” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During a question-and-answer period, both McGovern and Raskin spoke about the undemocratic power that the U.S. Senate holds, with the disproportionate influence its structure gives to small states and the filibuster denying the will of the majority. McGovern noted that the U.S. House has passed gun control legislation but that a minority in the Senate has been able to block it.

“Follow the money,” he said, adding that some of his Senate colleagues are more “interested in getting a check from the NRA than protecting our kids.”

“They are afraid of the gun lobby, they are wholly owned by the gun lobby,” McGovern said.

Both said, though, that the undemocratic nature of the Senate and tendencies of the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t be changed overnight.

“Is it going to be like that during the period in which we have to save ourselves from Trumpism and right-wing authoritarianism? Yeah,” Raskin said. “We have to deal within that set of rules just like I think we need to be prepared for dealing with these nine Supreme Court justices for a while, at least until we deal with the filibuster problem.”

McGovern urged people not to give up.

“This country is worth fighting for, this democracy is worth fighting for and however long it takes, we have to be in this fight until we prevail,” he said. “The other side, they’re trying to undermine this. They don’t like democracy, it’s too messy. They prefer autocracy or fascism.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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