Langevin: Key to election stability is education

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 7:00pm
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During a recent visit to Block Island, Congressman Jim Langevin said that a better educated population will be the true savior of the republic and its election processes.

After the attempts to meddle in the 2016 elections by various nations, primarily Russia, Langevin said the country was “better prepared in 2018 and we’re ready for 2020,” meaning the upcoming presidential race. Langevin made his comments during a listening tour of the island on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

But Langevin said that what needs to be done to bring “resiliency back into our democracy” is a better connection between the government and the individuals it represents. The path to that is through education. Students today, perhaps through a national approach, should be taught “how our government works, its system of checks and balances,” which will in turn strengthen “their connection to their government and their responsibility in the process,” he said.

The 2019 version of the National Defense Authorization Act “passed in the House with an amendment for a careers and education program” designed to bridge that education gap, Langevin said. He talked briefly about the recent assessment of the Providence School system, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, which showed a school system in almost complete collapse. Langevin called that report “very troubling” and proposed a “partnership with parents, teachers, and elected officials to roll up their sleeves to do what needs to be done for the kids. Failure is not an option.” The country’s youth need “21st century schools for a 21st century economy.”

It was not being educated enough about cyber attacks on a national level that got the country into trouble during the 2016 presidential election, said Langevin.

“We were very thoroughly caught off guard,” said Langevin about other countries’ attempts to influence the election. Langevin pointed out there was no evidence of actual tampering, only that there were attempts to do so. Even so, he said, “We didn’t see it coming.”

Better coordination between various agencies and departments overseeing Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command “working together with state and local governments will make sure we have the most secure elections possible,” said Langevin. He said the country’s protections against election meddling involved the “most forward-leaning approach and most aggressive strategies” the details of which are classified.

When asked what countries, such as North Korea or Iran, get out of attempting to meddle in domestic elections, Langevin said the goal was “undermining our democracy. Undermining confidence is their goal, to weaken our institutions and government.” To some degree, Langevin said, these attempts “have already succeeded.” This is due in part, he said, because President Trump “has not been clear and concise on how to get them out of our elections.”

In other domestic matters, Langevin said the “high cost of health care” and continued efforts by the Trump Administration to “starve the Affordable Care Act” were of primary concern. “We’re fighting to protect the ACA, improve it, and lower costs, he said. 

Health care services on Block Island were very much on the minds of a small group that met with Langevin later in the day at Town Hall. The congressman met with Gloria Redlich, the Senior Coordinator for the Senior Advisory Committee, which has been focused on bringing health care services to the community’s senior population. Also meeting with Langevin were Maryann Seebeck, the island’s Human Services Director, Town Manager Ed Roberge, Town Manager Assistant Shirlyne Gobern, and Second Warden André Boudreau.

Redlich talked about the senior transportation pilot program that took place last winter, for which a grant allowed rides in local taxis to be partly underwritten so the seniors did not have to pay the full fare. Redlich said the program was a huge success, and the small $900 grant was quickly expended. She said the SAC was working with State Rep. Blake Filippi and State Sen. Susan Sosnowski to seek a legislative grant to support the program for the upcoming winter.

Redlich said the program served to not only provide transport, but to offer some socialization during the winter. “We’re concerned about isolation and loneliness,” she said. Langevin said his office could help identify potential grant opportunities and write a letter of support. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does give you a leg up” on possibly getting the grant, said Langevin.

“That would be greatly appreciated,” said Seebeck.