Md. Congresswoman Donna Edwards Draws Crowd at Smith Lecture

By Lily Hicks

Courtesy of DonnaEdwards.house.gov

Congresswoman Donna Edwards, of Maryland’s Fourth District, lectured Sunday to a crowded hall of students and local residents at Smith College. The congresswoman spoke on a wide range of issues, including money in politics and military spending.

Edwards, accompanied by John Bonifaz, the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, focused part of her lecture on her efforts to amend the Constitution and reverse the effects of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” which waived restrictions on the amount of money corporations can use to endorse political candidates.

 “Are any of you guys corporations?” Edwards asked the audience, after presenting Judge John Paul Stevens’ dissenting opinion, in which he stated that the framers of the Constitution, unlike his judicial opponents, “had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings.” There were no affirmative responses but plenty of laughs.

Lecture attendee,Richard DeVoe of Great Barrington agreed with Edwards’ distinction, though not with her methodology.

“We need to do a lot more than we can depend on Congress for,” said DeVoe, a community division organizer for Common Good Finance, a project which aims to create local democratic economies with banks that involve depositors more directly in their investments.

DeVoe said he is a firm proponent of direct democracy and would prefer that – rather than introducing a Constitutional amendment for Congress and the states to approve, as Edwards did with House Joint Resolution 74 – a constitutional convention to address campaign financing and other issues.

On the topic of war, Edwards’ first reason as to why she opposes military spending was, “Well, it’s not working.”

Having been to Afghanistan twice over the span of the war, Edwards described the situation on the ground as “so much worse than it was a year ago.” She added that the question of how to disengage was “far more complicated,” but that she wouldn’t be “drawn into the question as to whether you support the troops or not depending on your support for supplemental funding [of the war].” Her support for the troops and her support for the war are two different things, she said.

Near the end of the lecture, Edwards told audience members, “you’d better care that the majority that’s in place right now holds.” Many in the audience applauded.

Included among Edwards’ supporters were Smith College students Yasmine Evans of Fort Washington, Md. and Galya Metanova of Gaithersburg, Md., both constituents in Edwards’ district.

Evans said she and Edwards were “very much on the same page,” and Metanova said there is a need to “continue the majority” in order to “allow the President to fulfill his four-year term.”

Amidst praise of Edwards and her work, one voice of dissent was that of Emily Odgers, a homeschooled student from Northampton.

Odgers, who is in grade 10, told Edwards in the discussion that she was “insulted” by Edwards’ instruction that audience members not “waste their vote” by supporting a third party in the upcoming elections. Odgers voiced her support for a Green Party candidate and stated that people like Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts gubernatorial incumbent who Edwards endorsed in the lecture, “take money from test companies.”

After the lecture, Odgers said that “it’s not about two political parties, it’s about your political beliefs” and voiced her resentment of “the idea that you can’t vote for a third party.”

In response to Odgers’ criticisms, Edwards said she was proud to be a Democrat and that “we [the Democratic Party] have done some damn good things for the American people.” She also said that she did not fully support all of Democratic President Barack Obama’s policies, but that her task was to “push this president to be better.”

Lily Hicks can be reached at [email protected]