From Quorum to Proxy: Governing, Representing and Campaigning Remotely

WED, JUL 8, 2020 (1:09:25)

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) joins Suffolk University’s Ford Hall Forum to discuss the changing landscape of governing, serving constituents, and running for office in a time of global pandemic.

How has Congress adapted to manage its business during the major crises facing the nation: COVID-19, its economic impact, and the growing movement for social justice? To what extent have new rules impacted this vital work? What challenges does Congress face in responding to unprecedented times and what will be the most likely next steps? How do Members keep in touch with their constituents, whose needs are now greater than ever? What does a virtual campaign look like and how will all of this impact voting in remaining primaries and November’s General Election?

Civic Engagement Activity & Reflection
Engage in at least one civic / political event of your choice during the course and document this with a short reflection essay. Try a virtual town or city hall meeting with local or state representatives, a meeting of an activist group, etc. The reflection should draw on readings from assignments and your own additional research. Members of the public who wish to share their reflections should post a link on Twitter and tag @GBHForumNetwork and @supolscilegal.

+ BIO: Arjun Singh

Arjun Singh joined the Washington Post in 2020, as an audio producer focused on politics.
Before joining the Post, Singh worked at the NPR affiliate WGBH in Boston, where he produced the show “Boston Public Radio,” and reported on politics. At WGBH, Singh reported on the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, produced the first debate between Senator Ed Markey and Representative Joe Kennedy during the 2020 Massachusetts Senate race, and has written articles about state and local politics in Massachusetts and Boston.

+ BIO: Christina Kulich-Vamvakas

Christina Kulich-Vamvakas is an Instructor in the Political Science & Legal Studies Department at Suffolk University, where she also directs Internship programs. She is a comparativist who is interested in the politics of democratic participation and civic engagement, with a regional focus on Europe and the US. She is interested in how “out” groups, such as women and other underrepresented groups, fair in government, public policy, political parties, protest & political movements. The impact of institutional rules on political behavior, such as in building or destroying social capital and fostering or inhibiting civic engagement, is also an area of particular interest. Christina holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She is also an alumna of the JHU School of Advanced International Studies Bologna Center.

+ BIO: Rachael Cobb

Rachael V. Cobb, Ph.D. is Chair of the Political Science & Legal Studies Department at Suffolk University and Associate Professor of Political Science. Cobb specializes in U.S. elections, election administration, electoral politics, civic engagement, and political participation. In 2006, with a grant from the United States Election Assistance Commission, Cobb established the University Pollworkers Project, a nonpartisan program designed to recruit college students as poll workers. Since then, more than 1,000 students from the Greater Boston area have received training and worked as poll workers.

In 2008, Professor Cobb served as co-principal investigator on the Boston Area Colleges Exit Poll, in collaboration with D. James Greiner (Harvard Law School) and Kevin Quinn (Harvard Government Department). Her work as appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science and Studies in American Political Development. Professor Cobb serves on the board of MassVOTE and the Boston Election Advisory Committee. She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her AB from Bryn Mawr College.

+ BIO: U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern ,D-MA-02, was born and raised in the Burncoat neighborhood of Worcester. The values he learned from his friends and family are the same ones he fights for every day in Congress: fairness, decency, respect for all people, and the idea that each of us has an obligation to give back to our community. Jim’s parents, Walter and Mindy, own a small package store in Worcester, and his sisters are both public school teachers. He is married to Lisa Murray McGovern and they have two children, Patrick and Molly.

First elected to Congress in 1996, Jim has fought tirelessly for the people of Massachusetts and has earned the respect and trust of his colleagues – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who named him Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee during the 116th Congress.

He is a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight. He also serves as the Chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and is the Democratic Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – both of which monitor, investigate and advocate on behalf of international human rights, the rule of law, and good governance.

Jim’s commitment to public service began at a young age. In 7th grade, Jim volunteered on the 1972 presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern – no relation. When Jim decided to attend college at the American University in Washington, D.C. he applied for an internship in the office of Senator McGovern. He worked his way through college as an intern, earning a BA in history in 1981 before going to work in the office of Congressman Joe Moakley, a Democrat from South Boston. While working for Moakley, Jim went back to American University to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 1984.

It was also in Moakley’s office that Jim was asked to help lead the investigation of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador following public outrage in Congress. He exposed that the murders were committed by the U.S. – backed Salvadoran military, leading to a major shift in U.S. foreign policy that made future military aid contingent on improved human rights and a negotiated peace in El Salvador.

Jim saw firsthand what strong, principled leadership looked like while working for Congressman Moakley. But with Newt Gingrich as Speaker, he also saw that too often, Washington worked for the rich and powerful instead of the American people. Jim successfully ran for Congress in 1996 and has won reelection in each subsequent term. After his first election, when Jim was on the House Floor to take the oath of office, he took his two mentors – Moakley and Senator McGovern – with him. He asked them both: “what should I know before I take this oath?”

Jim with his familySenator McGovern said: “get over the fear of losing an election, or else you’ll constantly be obsessed with polls instead of doing what’s right. Always do what’s right.

Congressman Moakley said: “get to know everyone here as a person. Get to know what they stand for and who they are and treat them with respect.”

Jim has never forgotten their advice. From principled stands on tough issues to working with Members of Congress from across the country and on both sides of the aisle, Jim has fought to ensure that every single person in this country and around the world is treated with dignity and respect.

Ford Hall Forum
Politics In The Time Of Global Pandemic