Rep. Jim McDermott: The danger of the Donald

Theo Davies-Lewis and Charlie Gillow speak with the veteran Democrat congressman

Ten minutes before US Congressman Jim McDermott is due to address Oxford’s Democrats Abroad, Christ Church’s cosy graduate common room is remarkably empty. Eventually, at quarter-past eight, a flurry of people enter the room, followed by McDermott himself.

Jim McDermott—painter, psychiatrist, and cave-art enthusiast—is no ordinary Congressman. He is ending his 27-year service representing Washington’s 7th District in the House of Representatives next year, but insists he is “not retiring”. The close ally of Clinton has chosen to “walk away” from a job in which people usually leave through “death, defeat or arrest”. McDermott leaves with the confidence that, through his efforts, he has advanced the causes of healthcare accessibility, peaceful cooperation, and equality of opportunity.

Congressman McDermott has never, despite his numerous electoral contests (he has won 13 Congressional elections), seen a divide in opinion so stark as that revealed by the 2016 presidential race. Does he see Clinton versus Trump as a reflection of a larger split within American communities?

“The campaign is reflecting a large amount of discontent in society. Trump has been able to convince people that he is a ‘change agent’… There is a desire for change and I don’t think people have looked carefully enough at him and the kind of change that he’d bring about.”

Pausing for a moment under Tom Tower, the congressman holds forth on the “crazy” irresponsibility of ‘the Donald’. Although a Clinton victory on November 8 would of course be cause for celebration, McDermott worries the more vocal, anti-establishment factors of Donald Trump’s support will maintain his followers’ desire to “lock her [Clinton] up” and “make her pay”.

“[The American people] are looking for change and if you’re not careful… certainly you’ve got to be careful what you wish for, because you might get something you didn’t think you are going to get”.

Nevertheless, he is optimistic that Clinton will emerge victorious on Wednesday morning. McDermott, who supported Clinton’s campaign back in 2008, believes her superior experience makes her better prepared for the challenges ahead than Barack Obama was in 2008.

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“I think she will bring more technical skill than he did. She knows the game. She knows the game form being in the Senate, from being in the White House, from being Secretary of State, all that makes her better prepared to go into the office than he was when he went in.”

We finish our discussion and McDermott is ushered away to his next engagement. When queried whether Clinton could be a two-term President, he lights up, and a beaming smile emerges: “One day at a time, dude! One day at a time.”