Although she opened her speech quietly and in a strained voice Monday night in Georgetown University’s ICC Auditorium, Eleanor Holmes Norton was soon speaking loudly and passionately about the defining issue of her nine Congressional terms: voting rights for the District of Columbia.
“We are on the verge of getting this bill through both houses,” she said of a follow-up to the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009. Hinting at the significance of Emancipation Day this Friday, April 16, Norton was optimistic that D.C.’s “200 years of struggle” would soon be coming to an end, and said that the hard work put into the bill by Democratic leadership would soon “bear fruit.”
Norton said she has been working hard to rid the bill of “an odious amendment” that would limit D.C.’s ability to restrict guns, and repeal gun registration requirements and D.C.’s semi-automatic ban. a mission that took on new meaning for her after the gunshot deaths of four D.C resident’s two weeks ago. Despite efforts by the NRA’s powerful lobby, Norton said she would “try to save as much of D.C.’s gun laws as possible.”
Turning to other issues, Norton stressed the importance of bringing “incremental change” to the country, but she also said it is because of a dogged unwillingness to compromise that some Democrats will lose their congressional seats in November’s midterm elections. “Be prepared to lose congressional seats,” she said, because Democrats “were not willing to sell our souls and not sell out the American people on health care.”
Turning to the College Democrats, who brought her to speak on the Hilltop Congresswoman Norton issued a challenge to some of the most active members of her party, saying that recent losses in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts “should sober Democrats still drunk from Inauguration.” Norton charged the same Democratic base that helped elect President Obama with proving that he “not only has landing power, but also has staying power.”
“The fight is on, bring it on,” she said. If 2009 was all about Obama, “in 2010 it is going to be about all of us.”
Photo by Shira Saperstein