Rep. Elijah Cummings Goes Out Swinging
The late Elijah Cummings was a hero and champion. This isn't the normal hyperbole we extend to politicians in the days after their death. It's supported by his deeds. In one of his last official acts as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings worked to help stop Donald Trump's latest bit of cruelty toward immigrants. The administration was willing to deport children with grave medical conditions regardless of whether they could receive adequate treatment outside the US. Hours before his death, Cummings signed two subpoenas for documents related to a temporary end to a policy change no Trump staffer could adequately explain.
According to a Democratic aide, Cummings "felt so strongly about the children, that he was going to fight until the end." This is because, unlike Trump, Cummings possessed a human soul and a heart. Whatever pain he might've suffered toward the end of his life didn't diminish the concern he had for others. That's why he entered politics -- not for power or his own self-aggrandizement -- but to help people.
NBC News journalist John Heilemann shared on Twitter a clip from a 2017 interview with Cummings. It's heartbreaking to watch now because Cummings seems acutely aware of his mortality. It seems like he knew that he wouldn't survive Trump's first term. He was denied the peace of knowing the country he loved was in safe hands when he left this world. No, far too many of his fellow Americans decided that Donald Trump should replace Barack Obama. Hope was changed into white grievance.
Elijah Cummings on Trump's Authenticity & Bannon's Influence | THE CIRCUS | SHOWTIME www.youtube.com
Cummings almost breaks down when he speaks about seeing Trump's rise as he "walks toward the evening" of his life. He was 66 -- three of the top-polling Democratic presidential candidates are all older -- but feels the years descending upon him, his time slipping away. You'd forgive him for succumbing to despair. People half his age have. But he quickly composes himself and expresses his determination and resolve. He won't just spend his final days as a respected elder statesman. No, he'll fight for us and for democracy. Because he must and for now, he can.
CUMMINGS: It makes me want to work night and day for the rest of my life to try to make sure that we make the best of the situation. This is bigger than Trump. This is about the soul of our democracy.
The congressman kept his word. He stood up to Trump. He called out Trump's kiddie jails for the literal shitholes they were. Remember how passionately he eviscerated Kevin McAleenan, head of the Department of Homeland Security?
CUMMINGS: You feel like you're doing a great job, right?
MCALEENAN: We're doing our level best in a very challenging situation.
CUMMINGS: What does that mean? What does that mean? When a child is sitting in their own feces, can't take a shower? Come on man. What's that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings.
Defending children offended the president who was not fit to stand in Cummings's shadow. Trump publicly attacked the career public servant and disparaged his district. Cummings didn't scare. Days earlier, he said point blank that Trump was a "racist" for his gross remarks about Cummings's colleague, Ilhan Omar.
'Send her back' chants 'very, very painful, extremely divisive': Rep. Elijah Cummings youtu.be
Cummings also signed subpoenas related to Trump's impeachment inquiry from his hospital bed. That's badass. It's probably not how Cummings wanted to spend his last moments. No one should have to think about Donald Trump when they're near death or even in the full bloom of health. But Cummings considered it his duty and his honor to serve America.
Predictably, the deathbed subpoenas had "dumbest man on the Internet," Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit, shouting CONSPIRACY!
Thank you, Rep. Cummings, for fighting for us. Thank you for never giving up. You'll continue to inspire us even in your absence.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.