Representative Adam Schiff discusses the state of US politics and offers advice to aspiring public servants


Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-38), the senior director of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, spoke with School of Public Affairs professor James Thurber about the state of democracy.

The March 31 virtual event, co-hosted by the AU’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and the Kennedy Political Union, was the final episode of the James A. Thurber Dialogues on American Democracy. The dialogue series is hosted by Thurber, who will retire at the end of the semester after 47 years at the University. Previous conversations in the series featured Sen. Cory Booker and journalist Anne Applebaum.

At the start of the event, Thurber and Schiff discussed themes from Schiff’s recently published book, “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and How We Still Could.” In his book, Schiff argues that the main threat to democracy comes from within.

Schiff and Thurber discussed the ongoing events in Ukraine, noting that people are “craving for democracy” with citizens “willing to sacrifice themselves for sovereignty and for [their] democracy.”

Schiff asked Americans, “What are we willing to sacrifice for [our democracy]?”

Some of the examples that constituted a “threat to democracy” that Schiff spoke about were Trump’s attempts to “steal” the 2020 election result, the crisis in Ukraine, polarization in Congress, and more. Despite these dangers, he expressed his admiration for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her work as a leader in handling these events.

“I used to lament that I came too late to serve with the great Tip O’Neill,” Schiff said. “And then I got to see Nancy Pelosi as a speaker, and over time I realized that when she left the house, new members would think, ‘I wish I got there in time to serve under Nancy Pelosi. . “”

Thurber and Schiff discussed other elements of democracy in their conversation, such as free speech, free speech, fake news, the importance of future generations, and the future of American politics. Their conversation ended with the conclusion that due to the current state of democracy, “the idea of ​​America is in jeopardy”.

To remain optimistic, Schiff explained that one day people “will marvel at how this was possible, but will also be so happy that it’s over and behind us.” He further highlighted the role people now have to have that day come sooner and avoid further damage.

Towards the end of the event, Thurber and Schiff also discussed the level of political activism at the AU. Given AU’s reputation and proximity to the Capitol, this was an exchange that had to happen.

“Our students are also hopeful,” Thurber said. “And believe in this institution as you do.”

Schiff also offered advice for future politicians, noting that this is an aspiration for many UA students.

“I’m often asked which is the best path,” Schiff said. “Follow your interests. If you are interested in poetry, study poetry. If you love literature, study literature. There are many paths to public service…but most of them involve being good at what you do.

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