We have 100 days to make our nation right

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When Elijah Cummings rose to speak on the House floor in April 1996 as the newly-elected congressman from Maryland’s 7th District, he was speaking to a nation divided by race, class, international turmoil and a national election.

It was in that environment, inspired by the undeniable need for unity and urgency, that he turned to the words of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, reciting his short poem, “Just a Minute”:

“I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.”

Now, I’m neither a poet nor a critic. That’s why I can’t speak to what Dr. Mays’s “minute” may have been at the time. But I can tell you that our “minute” as a nation today will be defined by the next 100 days.

Of course, for years we have heard people say, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.” I’ve borrowed the cliche myself a time or two, and I’ve seen the eyes roll. 

I’ve also explained how elections have consequences, calling the 2018 ballot “the most consequential” election of my lifetime. And I’ll defend that characterization because, if we hadn’t recognized the urgency of that moment, we could not have been able to play some defense against the reckless Trump administration and GOP agenda.

But although I am proud to see Democrats continuing to deliver on the promises made during that campaign, I also have to recognize the truth: That was 2018 and this is now. The threat that the radical right posed to our democracy then pales in comparison to what’s happening now.

I can’t help but look at “secret police” snatching protesters from American streets, armed thugs occupying statehouses in Kentucky and Michigan, black men and women being murdered by police officers, and White House “leadership” telling us to ignore the doctors during a deadly pandemic and threatening to defund schools unless they reopen and put children’s lives at risk.

Seeing that, and more — the full scope of what’s at stake — not only is this election the most important and consequential of my lifetime, but the next 100 days will define us as a nation and as a people for at least the next generation.

We are 100 days away from a choice that will change the direction and history of this country. But I don’t need to remind you, because you’ve seen it firsthand.

You already know how critical it is to protect and expand the Democratic Party’s majority in the House, and you don’t reminding that we badly need a Democratic majority in the Senate. You’ve seen how willing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is to use a national crisis as a smokescreen so he can push through the judicial appointments he needs to stack the courts for a lifetime. 

You’ve seen governors willing to ignore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on COVID-19 and put lives at risk so they can look tough for their campaign contributors. If we don’t win state elections in November, the GOP will redraw the lines and gerrymander themselves into power for the next decade.

Every issue you can imagine that impacts our quality of life will be on the ballot on Nov. 3. Health care, education, voting rights, infrastructure, housing, criminal justice, wages, student debt — you name it, all on the ballot. 

This is what’s at stake and this is our opportunity to make a difference. If you’re tired of talking with nobody listening, if you’re tired of a government that works for the rich and powerful but ignores “the people,” if you’re sick of being taken for granted, this is our moment.

We have 100 days to make it right. So let’s get to work.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.

Tags 2020 presidential election Democratic majority Democratic Party Elijah Cummings Mitch McConnell

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