Like the person at its heart, We’re Higher Than This: My Battle for the Way forward for Our Democracy is spectacular on a number of ranges.
It’s a compelling memoir, highlighting among the formative experiences that formed Elijah Cummings, a son of sharecroppers who would go on to turn out to be one of the crucial influential members of Congress. It’s an pressing name to motion, imploring us to defend our democracy as it’s assailed by threats inner and exterior. And, maybe above all, it’s a poignant reminder of simply how a lot the nation misplaced along with his loss of life.
Arguably one of many hardest working members of Congress, Cummings served for 23 years as a Democratic member of the U.S. Home of Representatives for Maryland’s seventh district. Story after story demonstrates why he was so well-known for his integrity, empathy, and generosity. His repute for reaching throughout the aisle “to seek out widespread floor”— and the friendships he discovered there— led Speaker Nancy Pelosi to notice in her foreword that “his friendships with members on the opposite aspect… had been referred to as ‘unlikely’ solely by people who did not know him. However those that knew him understood that it was values and patriotism that mattered to him, not celebration or politics.”
In a single instance, Cummings recounts the uproar that resulted when Republican Darrell Issa refused to let Cummings converse throughout a listening to, adjourning the assembly and reducing off the mic whereas giving a “slash-across-the-neck movement.” Members of each events responded to the “gesture, calling it an unpleasant reminder of ugly historical past — the Ku Klux Klan, self-styled justice, racism, killing folks by hanging them from bushes.” For his half, Cummings “didn’t add to the hearth” and “solely addressed the necessity for everybody to be heard within the democratic course of.” Issa subsequently apologized, however what helped safe their friendship was Cummings’ attending Issa’s portrait-hanging ceremony quickly thereafter regardless of the controversy. Equally, Cummings got here to work so intently with Tea Celebration member Mark Meadows that folks referred to the connection between the 2 as an “unlikely bromance.”
In fact, these friendships throughout the aisle did not imply that Cummings would fail to “converse fact even when the reality is not fashionable.” When Democrats took management of the Home following 2018’s “blue wave,” the congressman turned chair of the Home Committee on Oversight and Reform. He instantly started making ready for “investigations into points which are actually threatening our democracy — Trump-Russia connections, Trump’s taxes and funds, the Mueller Report, immigration and border coverage, household separations, and racism.”
Cummings offers an insider’s view on his committee’s efforts to do its job of each oversight and reform — a job made tougher by limitless obstruction from the administration and GOP. He shares his perspective on an array of hearings that captured the nationwide highlight, from the Benghazi assault to the testimony of the president’s former private lawyer, Michael Cohen, to the impeachment of President Trump. Lesser-known hearings characteristic, as effectively, together with one which targeted on reducing drug costs. When information broke that Republican committee members Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows had urged pharmaceutical firms to not testify as a result of Cummings would possibly leak info “in an effort to tank their inventory costs,” the congressman was “outraged and appalled.” He explains, “this wasn’t about company earnings; it was about preserving folks alive.”
Cummings could have died earlier than the onslaught of COVID-19, however it’s simple to think about him making use of the assertion he made on that event — that these committee members would favor to “defend drug firm inventory costs than the pursuits of the American folks” — to the administration’s response to the pandemic right this moment.
Not all of Cummings’ political life happened within the halls of Congress, nonetheless, and he writes movingly about Baltimore, as “a spot — not metropolis limits or boundaries, however a spot and area in my coronary heart and soul — that I did not simply develop up in, however that I really like.” That love is clear in his protection of his hometown after the president unleashed an assault by tweet on town. It’s evident in his heartache after the loss of life of Freddie Grey, in the way in which he talks about and engages with on a regular basis folks locally.
Such heat is unsurprising in a e-book replete with examples of the Congressman’s outstanding empathy. Whether or not serving to an aged girl purchase an oxygen tank or holding the dying sufferer of a stabbing, Cummings’ dedication to supporting these in want is simple. On condition that he recognized one among his “best strengths” as being “capable of really feel different folks’s ache,” it’s no shock that he was bewildered by the Trump administration and left to surprise, throughout hearings about immigrant detention facilities, if “the administration merely didn’t really feel for different people.”
Woven all through these forays into his political life are tales in regards to the folks and experiences that formed the congressman. We be taught of the values his preacher mother and father instilled in him and his siblings and of the phrases of knowledge that got here from their tales and people of his grandparents. Like him, we are able to draw classes from the story of why his father sat within the automobile for an hour daily after getting back from work and from the mandate in his mom’s dying phrases.
To learn this e-book is to hitch the ranks of his admirers. His lasting imprint is evident within the phrases of his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who writes the e-book’s remaining chapter. It’s obvious within the chosen eulogy excerpts that observe from, amongst others, the congressman’s two grownup daughters, his brother, his pastor, and Presidents Obama and Clinton.
On this narrative, his remaining reward to the nation, Cummings reminds us that “we’re not powerless.” He insists that “this can be a combat for the soul of our democracy,” and it’s a combat that we are able to win as a result of, in the long run, we’re, certainly, higher than this. It is now as much as us to show him proper.
Ericka Taylor is the favored training supervisor for Tackle Wall Road and a contract author. Her work has appeared in Bloom, The Thousands and thousands, and Willow Springs.