Rep. Jamie Raskin on losing his son and saving democracy

David Goodman
18 min readMay 13, 2022

Listen to this interview here.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin was expecting trouble after the November 2020 presidential election. Raskin and his Democratic colleagues in Congress anticipated that former President Donald Trump would try to subvert the results and try to derail Congress’s normally pro-forma certification of President Joe Biden’s election.

But Raskin was blindsided. On December 31, 2020, Raskin’s only son, Tommy, a promising young student at Harvard Law School, took his own life after a long struggle with depression.

Seven days later — and just a day after burying his son — Raskin returned to Congress to cast his vote to certify Biden’s election. That’s when Trump supporters mounted a violent insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the defeated president. Speaker Nancy Pelosi then tapped the grieving Raskin to be lead manager in Trump’s second impeachment trial. Since the summer, Raskin has been a member of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the Capitol.

Raskin tells his intensely personal and political story in his new book, “ Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

David Goodman: Unthinkable reads like a love letter to your late son Tommy and a love letter to democracy. I found it spellbinding both because the events of Jan. 6, but also because of the powerful and emotional story that you tell about Tommy, who you describe as your North Star. Tell us about Tommy Raskin.

Jamie Raskin: Tommy was a dazzling young man. He was just tremendously exuberantly funny. He cracked everybody up. We just got back from Cambridge, actually, where Harvard Law School had a memorial service for him. He was in his second year at Harvard Law School when we lost him. So many of his classmates just described him as the life of the party. He was he was a musician, a playwright and a stand-up comic. He was somebody that everybody wanted to be around, and he had profound moral and political passions. He was very much a human rights activist. He was an anti-war activist, and he became a vegan and was a really strong animal rights person as well. He converted more people to…

David Goodman

NYT bestselling author. Journalist. Skier. Host, The Vermont Conversation podcast at