Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland 8th District, spoke about the future of democracy at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown on Tuesday at a political fundraiser on the Island.
Raskin has been to the Vineyard a few times before, but this time he took to the pulpit at the Old Whaling Church to talk about the former president, Donald Trump, the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the state of politics.
“It’s a battle in a war to defend democracy that’s going to go on for a long time,” Raskin told The Times during a phone interview prior to his Whaling Church event. “Donald Trump is rallying his forces and attempting to stage a comeback, and he clearly has become the dominant and undisputed force within the Republican Party.”
Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th congressional district, which borders on Washington, D.C., and includes the counties of Montgomery, Frederick, and Carroll. He was one of the many inside the Capitol building during the attack. His youngest daughter and a son-in-law were inside the building, seated in the second-floor gallery.
As rioters banged on the doors of the chamber, Raskin was evacuated to a secure location with other Congress members. His daughter and son-in-law hid in a colleague’s office.
Many of the Capitol and Metropolitan Police officers who were on duty during Jan. 6 are Raskin’s constituents. Capitol Officer Harry Dunn, who spoke at the July 27 hearing about the racism he faced during the attack, lives in Raskin’s district.
Raskin said he’s spent a lot of time talking with officers who were on duty that day. On Wednesday, Raskin spoke with one officer who had suffered two broken ribs, kidney damage, and vertebrae damage, coupled with mental and emotional damage, after being attacked with a steel pipe and a Trump flag.
“It was not a tourist visit. They were armed tourists,” Raskin said.
Raskin says he views Jan. 6 as “three rings of activity”: the outer ring, which was a mass demonstration from former President Donald Trump that turned into a riot; a middle ring, the organization and combination of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Aryan Nation, and other domestic violence extremists; and the inner ring, the violent insurrection at the Capitol.
“One of the horrors of Jan. 6 was that Donald Trump’s organizers essentially brought together for the first time domestic violence extremist groups from across the country,” Raskin said. “They were able to put on the same kind of Unite the Right rally that we saw in Charlottesville in 2017, but it was on steroids.”
While Raskin is a part of the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack, he said there are GOP colleagues who strictly follow Trump, conspiracy theory, and lies — traits more characteristic of a religious cult than a modern political party.
He said the committee’s work can be contrasted with the work done during Trump’s second impeachment trial, which was led by Raskin.
Where the second impeachment trial was about one person, Trump, and one crime, incitement to violent insurrection, the Jan. 6 committee is looking at many people, and “how the attack was organized, who paid for it, why did these actors converge against the government and Congress and the counting of electoral votes, and to what extent are we facing continuing danger.”
Going forward, Raskin said, the lies and propaganda need to be excavated and then overthrown before the country can heal. “Democracy has a ground it has to stand on, and that ground is the truth,” he said. “We have to recover the truth and the respect for facts, and then we can reach out in a spirit of civic affection and solidarity to try to bring people back in.”
Quoting Voltaire, Raskin said, “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Speaking of his late son, Tommy Raskin, whom he lost only days before the insurrection, Raskin said the incalculable loss of his son prompted him to write an open tribute.
“Tommy Raskin had boundless promise and a great love of the word, and he had so much to offer,” Raskin said. “We felt it important that Tommy’s insights and contributions not be lost.”
Raskin told The Times he recently finished writing a book about his son, Jan. 6, and the impeachment trial.
“It’s my best effort to understand this extraordinary convergence of traumatic events in the life of my family and our republic,” Raskin said.