It tells you something about the chaotic and historically perilous current state of American politics that the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee unexpectedly passed away this morning, and it’s not even getting the biggest headlines of the day. But let’s not allow today’s passing of Elijah Cummings to fall by the wayside, both because of the crucial role he played in trying to help us get through the current political crisis, and because of the place he deserves in history for his lifetime of fighting the good fight.
Elijah Cummings had been in the U.S. House of Representatives since the nineties, but he didn’t start to become a household name until 2015, when he used his position as ranking member of the House Oversight Committee to try to thwart the dishonest Benghazi antics that were being carried out by the Republican Chairman. After the 2018 midterm elections, Cummings became the Chairman of that same House Oversight Committee, and since that time he’d been working tirelessly to try to expose Donald Trump’s crimes and help the impeachment process move forward.
Cummings also had a reputation for being widely liked and respected on both sides of the aisle. He struck up friendships with House Republicans. He tried to find the good in them, even as he passionately called them out for their most corrupt antics. But if you were to ask Elijah Cummings what he wanted to be remembered for, he’d probably point to his advocacy for his beloved hometown of Baltimore.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Elijah Cummings, which pretty much sums it all up: “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” The best way for us to honor Cummings’ life work and memory is to get off the sidelines and fight the good fight on his behalf.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report