Reflections on Elijah Cummings

There aren’t many politicians in America who deserve the praise that Elijah Cummings had earned over the years. He was respected by all in Congress, and by many of his Republican rivals. He was a fighter for civil right all his life, and represented the most economically exploited citizens of Baltimore, first as a member of the State House of Delegates and then in the US Congress. Yes, he did represent part of Baltimore City that is ‘rat-infested’, as President Trump liked to equate all of Baltimore (at least where black Americans lived) and by extension Mr. Cummings himself. Donald Trump has a lifetime history of racism.

In 2016 I ran against Mr. Cummings for Congress as a Green Party candidate. I garnered only 3%, but it was the largest vote for the Green Party in the Baltimore area for a candidate for the House of Representatives. I did not run against Mr. Cummings because I thought his politics was too right-wing. In fact, every time as a constituent when I called his office to voice my concern over an issue I knew I would be speaking to one who supported my views. The problem I had with Congressman Cummings is that he stopped long ago from representing the people of the 7th Congressional District and nearly exclusively represented and advocated for the Democratic Party, often at the expense of me and other constituents.

Cummings signed on to sponsorship of Medicare for All. Yet he never advocated for it and instead, supported the Affordable Care Act, which put the nail in the Medicare for All coffin.

He opposed President Bush’s bailout of the banks but to preserve the prestige of the newly elected president Obama, and based on false promises from Obama, supported a new set of bailouts for the banks. Who but his constituents who were most affected, and whose lives were destroyed by the banking industry, were betrayed by Congressman Cummings?

Elijah Cummings’s death has certainly left a hole, a void, in Congress that will be difficult to fill. And it is very likely that his replacement, before an actual election, will be another sycophant of the Democratic Party. What is needed is the Old Cummings, the one who fought an establishment, not the one who lived the remaining years serving it.

Myles Hoenig is a veteran of the Prince George's County Public School system in Maryland, USA. He's a long time activist for social justice. He lives in Baltimore. Read other articles by Myles.