After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, Jamie Raskin served variously as a Teaching Fellow in Harvard University’s Government Department (1985-87), Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts (1987-89), and General Counsel of Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition from 1989-90.
Raskin then took a job as a Professor at American University’s Washington College of Law from 1990-2017, which included a stint as Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs (1994-96). He was also a Visiting Professor at the Paris-based Institut D’Etudes Sciences Politique in 2003-04.
In 1992, Raskin was a member of the Takoma Park Redistricting Task Force, which sought to ensure voting rights for non-citizens and illegal aliens living in Takoma Park, Maryland. Toward that end, he also co-founded a “Share the Vote” campaign that advocated, in 1991-92, for non-citizen voting rights. When such rights were eventually granted by means of a city referendum in Takoma Park, Raskin said: “Today, many communities exclude aliens from participation. I’m proud to be part of a community that has extended them this political recognition.”
Raskin again addressed this theme in a 1993 article where he wrote: “The current blanket exclusion of noncitizens from the ballot is neither constitutionally required nor historically normal. Moreover, the disenfranchisement of aliens at the local level is vulnerable to deep theoretical objections since resident aliens — who are governed, taxed and often drafted just like citizens — have a strong democratic claim to being considered members, indeed citizens, of their local communities.”
In October 2000, Raskin penned an article for Slate magazine in which he introduced the idea of Internet “vote trading” as a means of trying to: (a) help Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore win the upcoming November election, and (b) help Green Party candidate Ralph Nader remain a viable figure in American politics while preventing him from siphoning votes away from Gore. Wrote Raskin:
“According to the Washington Post and the Al Gore campaign, the presidential race is now so close that a strong showing by [Green Party candidate] Ralph Nader in 10 swing states could help give George W. Bush the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win. This leaves hundreds of thousands of progressive Nader supporters in swing states … with a dilemma: Should they vote their hearts for Ralph and make sure he gets the 5 percent of the popular vote needed to qualify the 2004 Green Party presidential candidate for federal funding? Or should they vote strategically for Al [Gore] to stop George [Bush]?
“Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of frustrated Gore voters trapped in … Republican-controlled states … face a quandary of their own. Bush holds such a commanding lead in these places that even if Gore supporters cast their ballots for their man, he won’t win any of those states. These are truly wasted votes.
“But wait! There is a way for Gore voters trapped in Republican states to liberate Nader supporters in the tossup states to vote for Gore without actually abandoning their support for Nader and a strong Green Party in the future. The key is a … vote-swapping plan [that] could use a Web site to pair individual Gore Democrats in Republican states with individual Nader supporters in swing states. Democrats from … states in the definite Bush column could register at the site by name under a brief text stating that, as Gore supporters in a Republican state, they have concluded that their best hope for contributing to a Gore victory is to vote for Nader in the explicit hope that Nader voters in swing states will correspondingly cast their ballots for Gore. Nader supporters in the swing states could add their names to a similar list under a brief text stating that, as Nader supporters in a tossup state, they have decided to vote for Gore but do so in the explicit hope that Gore voters in Republican states will correspondingly cast their ballots for Nader. Using sorting software, the Web site could then match individual Gore voters to individual Nader voters. If just 100,000 Gore supporters and 100,000 Nader supporters in the key states registered and kept their words, both a Gore victory and federal funding for the Greens could be accomplished.”
Raskin’s tactic was in fact implemented, and it won at least 35,000 swing-state votes for Gore before Republican State Attorneys General and Secretaries of State threatened to criminally prosecute the Web site’s organizers.
In the early 2000s, Raskin was a board member of Fair Vote, an organization that, in an effort to “mak[e] democracy more fair and functional,” advocated in favor of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a system that would give voters the option to rank political candidates in order of preference. As Fair Vote explained: “If your vote cannot help your top choice win, your vote counts for your next choice. In races where voters select one winner, if a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an ‘instant runoff.’ The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until there’s a majority winner or a candidate won with more than half of the vote.”
In addition to his teaching duties at the Washington College of Law, Raskin served as a Democratic State Senator in Maryland from 2006 until 2016, at which point he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by the voters of Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District.
In 2016, Raskin’s wife, Sarah Bloom Raskin, a Treasury Department official appointed by President Barack Obama, was one of several Obama officials who requested, without justification, the unmasking of Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming National Security Adviser. Others who unmasked Flynn included such notables as then-Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.
Raskin has longstanding ties to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as reflected in the fact that he hired DSA member Cliff Walker Green as an intern in 2017, and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) member Matt Golden as a campaign staffer in 2018.
Upon joining Congress in 2017, Raskin on January 13 objected to the certification of the results of the 2016 presidential election in which Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton. Said Raskin: “I have an objection because 10 of the 29 electoral votes cast by Florida were cast by electors not lawfully certified because they violated Florida’s prohibition against dual office holders.” Raskin’s objection was not supported by any senators, thus it gained no traction in Congress.
A few days later, Raskin vowed to impeach President Trump as soon as he took office. “Right now it looks pretty obvious that he’s on a collision course with the Emoluments Clause,” said Raskin. “He has refused to divest himself of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of business interests he has around the world doing business with foreign governments…. [The Emoluments Clause] says that no elected official … can accept a gift, an emolument or any payment at all from a foreign government. He [Trump] just simply refuses to accept that reality. So if he goes into office and he refuses to divest himself, the moment that the first conflict comes up, that’s going to look like an impeachable offense.”
In the summer of 2017, Raskin was a signatory to an initiative designed to lay the groundwork for President Trump’s possible removal from office via the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, in the event that Congress could show that Trump had become too “incapacitated” to continue as president. Citing a “sustained pattern of behavior” and several “errant and seemingly deranged tweets” by Trump, Raskin voiced concern that “something is seriously wrong” with the president. Three years later, in October 2020, Raskin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced legislation that aimed to formally create a commission entrusted with evaluating the president for removal from office under the 25th Amendment.
In 2019, Raskin pushed for the impeachment of President Trump on grounds that he had “totally violated his oath of office by betraying the national security of the country and our election,” by “withholding foreign aid to a democratic ally [Ukraine] desperate for the aid in order to get them to come and … assist the president in his reelection prospects.” (For details about the impeachment of President Trump in 2019-20, click here.)
In June 2020, Raskin, citing the thousands of Black Lives Matter protests that had swept across the United States since the highly publicized May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, heaped praise upon “Black Lives Matter and the brave young people who have filled the streets of America demanding a new social contract.” Further, Raskin credited the protesters for having “completely transformed the boundaries of what is now considered politically possible in Congress across the board.”
In his opening statement at a June 19, 2020 briefing before the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Raskin spoke about a June 1 incident in which President Trump, after having delivered a televised speech condemning the ongoing Black Lives Matter / Antifa riots as “acts of domestic terror,” walked from the White House to the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, a historic building that protesters had vandalized and burned the night before. In order to make that walk possible, it was necessary for police and security personnel to protect the president from the many protesters who again had massed in Lafayette Square, broken police barriers, hurled projectiles and fireworks at police, and pressed towards the fence protecting the White House. After Trump’s security succeeded in clearing the protesters from the area, the president, accompanied by members of his cabinet, was able to cross the street and pose for photographers in front of the church. In the process, Trump held up a Bible as a symbol of his often-expressed concern for religious liberty as the foundation of all America’s liberties, and of his often-repeated statement that America’s motto was “In God We Trust.”
But Raskin denounced the “secret and unidentified paramilitary squad of federal officers” who had “unleashed pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets on a crowd of peaceful protesters … and attending reporters, all in order to clear a path for Trump and [Attorney General Bill] Barr to arrive at the St. John’s Episcopal Church, uninvited, so the President could perform the most grotesque photo op in American history, waving someone else’s Bible upside-down and above his head.” Added the congressman:
“This violent and cartoonish display of Banana Republicanism trampled the right to peaceably assemble on the streets and sidewalks without being assaulted and dispersed by government forces, the right to petition your government for a redress of grievances without being physically attacked by unidentified federal agents, the right to freedom of speech, the right to free press, the right to free exercise of religion without government officials occupying your church property for political reasons and then barring you from it the next day, and the right not to have government establish religion by fusing governmental and ecclesiastical power, which is surely what Trump intended to do in his own inartful and incompetent way by brandishing the Bible like a political prop.”
Raskin was equally critical of police officers nationwide who had attempted to quell the BLM/Antifa riots that had occurred elsewhere in the country after what he called “Mr. Floyd’s murder.” The congressman: (a) accused police of mistreating “peaceful protesters, journalists, and even members of the clergy [who] have been hit with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, batons, and more”; (b) complained that “police have used city-wide curfews as an excuse for intimidation and violence”; (c) charged that “police have used so-called ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons, including tear gas and rubber bullets fired directly at the heads and in the faces of protesters and journalists,” resulting in “at least 60 people [suffering] serious head injuries”; (d) denounced President Trump for having “praised and encouraged this authoritarian response”; and (e) charged that Trump had “called the hundreds of thousands or millions of peaceful protesters ‘terrorists,’ ‘thugs,’ ‘anarchists,’ ‘agitators,’ ‘looters’ and ‘lowlifes.’”
At a June 29, 2020 hearing of the House Oversight Committee, where Raskin was the ranking member, the congressman discussed the circumstances surrounding the May 29, 2019 death of black security officer David Patrick Underwood, who had been killed by protesters in Oakland, California. “Certain [House Republican] members tried to point the finger at Antifa,” said Raskin, “but the FBI caught the actual culprits, and charged two men associated with Boogaloo, a right wing extremist group advocating and planning for a race war in the United States.” Raskin also described the purportedly widespread epidemic of “unjustified, unnecessary, and disproportionate government violence against the people” as “an attack on democracy itself.” Moreover, he declared that “lethal violence by racist, white supremacist, and ideological extremist groups” had “taken the lives of hundreds of Americans over the last several years.” Such violence, Raskin said, was being routinely “unleashed against the American people because of the content and viewpoint of their political speech.”
In February 2021, Raskin was the lead House Manager of the second Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, who had been out of office since January 20. Also serving as House Managers alongside Raskin were Representatives Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse, and Madeleine Dean.
Arguing that it was entirely constitutional to impeach a former president who was no longer in office, Raskin told the senators that if they did not hold a trial, they would be creating a “January exception” allowing presidents to escape punishment for misconduct they might commit during their final days in the White House.
Blaming Trump’s rhetoric for having sparked the infamous January 6, 2021 incident where hundreds of people claiming to be Trump supporters had temporarily occupied the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Raskin and the House Democrats focused on the president’s call for his supporters to “fight like hell” when protesting the results of the disputed 2020 election. “He told them to fight like hell, and they brought us hell on that day,” said Raskin. The congressman also declared: “An examination of [Trump’s] past statements makes it clear that when Donald Trump tells a crowd as he did on January 6, ‘Fight like hell,’ where you won’t have a country anymore, he meant for them to fight like hell.”
But in fact, Raskin and many other Democrats also had a long history of using precisely the same slogan and rhetoric on social media or in television appearances. In short, Raskin and the Democrats were claiming that President Trump was not entitled to the same free-speech rights as they were. This prompted Trump attorney Michael van der Veen to say: “Yesterday, in questioning [by the Senate], House Manager Raskin admitted that House Democrats had invented an entirely new legal standard. In fact, they have created a new legal theory—the Raskin Doctrine. The Raskin doctrine is based on nothing more than determining protected speech based on the party label next to your name…. [I]f you pay close attention, you will see [that] any speech by Democrat elected officials is protected speech, while any speech made by Republicans elected officials is not protected. The creation of the Raskin Doctrine actually reveals the weakness of the House managers’ case.” In response, Raskin joked that he was honored to have a doctrine named after him.
At Trump’s impeachment trial on February 9, Raskin suggested that the President had tried to bring the type of “tyranny and despotism” to America that Abraham Lincoln had warned of in his famous 1838 Lyceum speech where he also asserted that “if division and destruction ever come to America, it won’t come from abroad but will come from within.” Moreover, Raskin accused Trump of trying “to overrun the power of the people in their elections and replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs.” “Hamilton in Federalist One,” Raskin added, “said, ‘The greatest danger to republics and the liberties of the people comes from political opportunists who began as demagogues and end as tyrants, and the people who are encouraged to follow them.’”
On February 13, the Senate voted 57–43 in favor of convicting Trump of inciting insurrection, thus falling 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution for conviction and removal from office. Thus, Trump was acquitted. Seven Republican senators joined all 50 of the Democratic and Independent senators in voting to convict Trump.
Despite Trump’s acquittal, Raskin, speaking at a Government Employees “virtual” political-legislative conference which was held via Zoom on February 21, said: “We proved, in the court of history, that one Donald John Trump, a corrupt liar and a traitor, had incited rebellion.”
Raskin believes that all women should have an unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy – subsidized by taxpayers, in cases of economic hardship;
Raskin supports the “repeal of the Hyde Amendment,” which historically has banned the use of public funds to pay for abortion services.
Raskin believes that public and private employers alike should be legally required to implement affirmative-action hiring and promotion policies that give preference to African Americans and women, as compensation for historical injustices.
Raskin has long been an outspoken advocate of statehood for the District of Columbia. In 2017 he co-sponsored H.R.317, a bill promoting D.C. statehood. In June 2020 he said: “I have been working hard to build support among colleagues for D.C. statehood and to make the case constitutionally, politically and morally.”
Raskin believes that the death penalty is applied in a racially discriminatory manner, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and should be abolished.
Environment & Energy
Raskin believes that an ever-increasing reliance on “green energy” sources such as wind and solar should be put in place, along with the phasing out of fossil fuels, the imposition of carbon taxes, and the raising of vehicle CAFE standards.
In March 2019, Raskin issued an urgent call for “sweeping and sustained policy action to break our lethal carbon addiction and propel renewable energy forward.”
In an October 23, 2019 congressional hearing, Raskin called climate change “the civilizational emergency of our times, which threatens all of the rights and freedoms of the people, including the right to live.” “The evidence seems overwhelming that for decades, the oil industry understood the lethal threat of climate change but misled the American people and buried the scientific truth of climate change,” he added.
During his 2016 congressional campaign, Raskin said: “I am fighting for debt-free college education as a national priority.”
Guns & Second Amendment
Raskin believes that more guns in the hands of private citizens inevitably result in higher levels of crime, and that the availability of firearms should be therefore restricted by whatever means are effective.
“I support a universal background check, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and barring violently dangerous people from possessing or purchasing firearms,” says Raskin.
Raskin believes that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) is an excellent statute that can serve a strategic stepping stone toward the eventual implementation of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system. “While we work to protect the ACA, I strongly support moving towards a single-payer universal healthcare system,” says the congressman.
In August 2018, Raskin was a founding member of the Medicare-For-All Congressional Caucus, which advocated the implementation of a government-run, universal healthcare system.
Toward that same end, Raskin in 2019 was a co-sponsor of H.R.1384, the Medicare-for-All Act, which was introduced by Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
Raskin believes that restrictions on immigration are basically racist because they tend to prevent Hispanics and other nonwhites from entering the United States; that social services should be available to all U.S. residents regardless of their immigration status; and that illegal aliens should be offered amnesty if they have been productive members of society.
In 2011, Raskin voted YES on SB 167, a bill designed to permit illegal-alien residents of Maryland to attend public colleges for the discounted tuition rates normally reserved solely for legal residents of the state.
In his 2016 congressional campaign, Raskin pledged to “work towards an earned and tangible path to citizenship to bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the rights and responsibilities of full membership in our society and economy.”
In 2016 as well, Raskin openly opposed proposals to require illegal aliens to return to their country of origin.
At a House hearing on July 10, 2019, Raskin condemned what he described as the mistreatment of migrant children who, under Trump administration policies, were allegedly being housed at poorly administered government facilities in the Southwest after they had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. “What is driving this refugee crisis?” Raskin asked before proceeding to answer his own question: “Gang violence and intimidation, government dysfunction and police corruption, political persecution, rape, and unchecked gender violence—they are all driving unprecedented numbers of desperate families and terrified children out of the Northern Triangle of Central America to the United States…. Many of these migrants amassing at our border are escaping threats of imminent death or bodily harm or the prospect of their children being forced into violent gangs or criminal networks of sexual abuse and human trafficking. Some are climate change refugees, fleeing the devastating effects of extreme drought and flooding.”
Raskin believes that federal spending on infrastructure projects and job programs is crucial to the success of any economic recovery program.
Iran Nuclear Deal
Raskin supported the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, saying that it: (a) “represents our best chance to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” and (b) “shuts off the uranium pathway to a nuclear bomb for at least fifteen years.”
In May 2018, Raskin tweeted that President Trump’s “decision to walk away from” the Iran nuclear deal was a “foolish … dangerous, reckless and provocative” act that would make it “easier for Iran to get a bomb” and would “undermin[e] American credibility on the world stage.”
Raskin was angered when, in August 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to bar U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, on grounds that they supported the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement whose ultimate objective was to destroy the state of Israel. Raskin called Netanyahu’s action “an unacceptable affront to the U.S. Congress and a betrayal of free speech.” He also accused President Trump of having influenced Netanyahu’s decision: “[I]t’s just outrageous that the president of the United States would urge the leader of any foreign democracy to deny entry to Americans because of their political beliefs, no matter how much he disagrees with them.” Netanyahu, however, made it clear why he, and he alone, had decided to keep Omar and Tlaib out of his country: “We respect all members of Congress. Our directive is to facilitate, on a regular and automatic basis, the entry of all members of Congress, Democratic and Republican…. There is only one exception and it is the BDS law that obligates us to evaluate the entry of people who support BDS.”
Nationalization of Businesses
Raskin believes that the nationalization of banks and corporations is preferable to federal bailouts of those entities when they are failing economically.
Raskin seeks to combat “the new argument that businesses have a religious right to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.” This is a reference to such things as:
Raskin believes that the Social Security system should not be privatized to any degree and should remain forever under complete federal control.
Taxes & Income Inequality
Raskin believes that wealthy people should be required to pay much higher tax rates than those who earn less.
He supports tax increases as a means of balancing the federal budget.
In 2012 he voted YES on a bill designed to increase state income tax rates in Maryland.
In his 2020 congressional re-election campaign, Raskin said: “We need to reverse the GOP tax scam that gave massive corporations outrageous tax cuts while increasing taxes on middle-class families. We need to support working families by raising the minimum wage—and all wages by promoting the right to organize and bargain collectively, lowering healthcare costs, providing paid family leave, promoting debt-free college and expanding affordable housing.”
Raskin believes that voter ID laws are, by and large, racially motivated attempts to suppress minority voting and should be eliminated.
He believes that public funds should be used to finance political campaigns.
On July 23, 2020, Raskin and fellow Democrat Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon introduced the Accessible Voting Act, designed to expand voting rights for people who are elderly or disabled. Toward that end, the bill sought to expand the use of mail-in and absentee ballots, both of which are notoriously susceptible to voter fraud.
Raskin favors the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.
He once introduced legislation to lower the voter-registration age to 16.
He supports a National Popular Vote law that would do away with the Electoral College in presidential elections.
In 2013 Raskin voted YES to a bill designed to authorize online voter registration, online voting, and mail or fax voting, and to increase the number of early-voting centers that counties in Maryland were required to operate.
Raskin has been a member of the National Lawyers Guild, and he has long been closely involved with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Indeed, he has participated in some of the “Take Back America” conferences that IPS periodically organizes in collaboration with the Campaign for America’s Future.
Raskin has delivered lectures and presentations for such organizations as the League of Women Voters, the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Institute for Citizen Education in the Law, the National Rainbow Coalition, Blacks in Government, the National Women’s Democratic Club, the National Student Bar Association, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Section.
Raskin is a supporter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In October 2017, he said to CAIR: “I thank you all for your hard work and commitment to a strong, diverse and just democracy.” In September 2018, Raskin wrote a letter of support to CAIR on the occasion of its 24th anniversary.
Further Reading: “Jamin B. Raskin” (Keywiki.org).