The Viewpoint: The role of bipartisanship after death of Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings

Category:  Opinions
Friday, November 8th, 2019 at 11:40 AM

When U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings died in mid-October, it was followed by the cries of those grateful and inspired by the work the congressman had done while in office. 

In the months leading up to Cummings’ death, though, President Donald Trump made it his personal goal to tear down the lawmaker on a national platform, even if he later admitted in a tweet to having seen first-hand the power and integrity that was Elijah Cummings. 

Awareness only when someone has fallen ill or died is no longer enough. Since Trump has been in office, bipartisanship means personal attacks on the sole basis that you disagree on policy.

Cummings had spent 13 terms as a Maryland representative and was, more than anything, proud of his state and his country. 

He spent his years advocating for the black working class, fought his way to chair of the Oversight Committee and fought against high prescription drug prices.

Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and wife to Elijah Cummings, spoke at the funeral about her husband’s accomplishments and the hardships he faced leading up to his death. 

"What congressman, chairman Cummings did was not easy. And it got infinitely more difficult in the last months of his life when he sustained personal attacks and attacks on his beloved city. And while he carried himself with grace and dignity in all public forums, it hurt him. Because one thing you do not know about Congressman Cummings: he was a man of soul and spirit. He felt very deeply. He was very empathetic. It was one of his greatest gifts. And it was one of the sources of his ability to be a public servant and a man of the people."

She continued: "This was a man of the utmost integrity. Do you hear me? He had integrity and he cared about our democracy. He cared about our planet. He cared about our community. He wanted to make sure that we left a society worthy of our children. So, I also wanted to tell you it was not easy in the last months of his life, because he was absolutely in pain, but get this: he was a waling miracle. Do you know that he was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness more than 25 years ago? He was given six months to live more than 25 years ago, and he kept going. He kept fighting. He kept standing. He kept working.”

Rockeymoore Cummings let the nation know of Representative Cummings' drive to leave this country better than it started, along with battling his illness, is something even Trump knew and witnessed about the representative. 

In a tweet, Trump said he witnessed “first hand the strength, passion and wisdom” that was Rep. Cummings — an acknowledgment that means nothing.

Bipartisanship leaves Democrats, like Cummings, and Republicans, like Trump (if you can even call him a Republican) divided on policies, but it should not prohibit people in office, left or right, from respecting one another. 

It's no secret that over the course of Trump’s time as president, Cummings had been one of his more vocal critics. The Baltimore Sun reported on several incidents in which Cummings and Trump clashed. 

The first of several incidents seemed normal and was bipartisan bickering at its best. However, as the Mueller investigation started to draw headlines at every news organization and on every newspaper, tensions between Democrats and the Trump administration were reflected in meetings, press conferences and interactions online. The continuing investigation only further escalated party tension, as each was out to prove the other side wrong by all means necessary. 

In April 2019, Trump sued Cummings for crossing a “constitutional line” after he had subpoenaed the president to release his financial records. Cummings believed that the subpoenaed information was key to proving that there were executive branch wrongdoings (cough cough, tax evasion, cough cough). 

Trump suing Cummings was just the start of the personal attacks. In July, three days after the Mueller Report was released, Trump was calling the representative’s home base, Baltimore, “a rat and rodent infested mess” on Twitter. 

Then in August 2019, Trump, as he is known to do, sarcastically tweeted about the robbery of the Cummings residence in Baltimore, saying, “too bad!”

Cummings was not the only victim of Trump’s personal attacks. In July 2019, the president tweeted about Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, encouraging them to go back to where they came from. By the way, all besides Omar (who is a legal U.S. resident) are natural born citizens. 

He stated: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run."

He later, while on the campaign trail in North Carolina, welcomed the racist chant about Omar of “send her back.” 

Sadly, it’s not only Trump who is guilty of foul play on Twitter, at rallies and in meetings. However, as head of state and head of nation, he and his actions speak for everyone across America. When he attacks groups and those that represent us, he in turn attacks everyone who voted for that person. 

Trump and all those — Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between — need to redefine bipartisanship. Lawmakers and enforcers do not have to agree on policy, but the reign of the personal, malicious verbal attacks on one another must come to end, before the very nation we all love and all represent becomes absolutely divided.

Politicians are now acting like children. They're calling each other names and attacking personal appearances in the name of policy and it's pathetic. We don’t have to agree with one another, but lawmakers must respect each other in the name of democracy.

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