U.S. Senate race:

Jaffe wants to take democracy back to its roots

By MIKE PERSLEY  - The Frederick News-Post

In 1968, the country’s culture wars pitted a rebellious young generation against the values of their parents. The rift was fodder for Ralph Jaffe, a social studies teacher at Ridgely Middle School in Timonium, to take his ninth-grade students through an experiment in participatory democracy.


They would spend all of their time in class trying to pass a bill through Congress to help create a rapport between the embittered generations.


Students lobbied Maryland’s then-2nd District Rep. Clarence Long, who later introduced a bill. A word-of-mouth campaign began for students outside the class to write their representatives. Students called members of the House Appropriations Committee to make their case.


In September 1969, nearly 11 months after their experiment began, President Richard Nixon signed into law National Adult/Youth Communication Week, which is every Sept. 28 through Oct. 4. People of different generations are encouraged to share and discuss ideas to build mutual trust.


Jaffe, 74, now retired and living in Pikesville, is one of several Democratic candidates this year for U.S. Senate. His opponents are U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, Lih Young, Ed Tinus, Blaine Taylor, Violet Staley, Charles U. Smith, Theresa C. Scaldaferri and Fred Donald Dickson Jr.


Jaffe said his experiment proved that money and glad-handing in politics are unnecessary and corrupt a democracy. He’s trying to build a movement of people to strip down their democracy to its most basic form, eliminating corrupt institutions and leaving a direct line between people and their representatives, he said.


He’d eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which he said was paid for by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. He’d dismantle the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, which perform functions that should belong to the states, he said.


He’d also like to get rid of the majority of federal taxes.


“We didn’t need some paid professional lobbyist to come in and accomplish our goal, and we accomplished something that made our country a little better,” he said. “When we all begin to understand that, our revolution will occur.”


Jaffe’s current campaign is not his first. He ran for Baltimore City Council in 1992. In 2010, he ran for governor in the Democratic primaries, receiving close to 20,000 votes, before continuing as a write-in candidate in the general election.


In 2014, he ran again for governor as a Democrat. He refused to take campaign contributions, which he referred to as “legalized bribes.” Instead, he borrowed $450 from his sister to fund his campaign. He has borrowed money from her again for his Senate campaign, he said.


Jaffe said politicians should follow five rules to help eliminate corruption in government:


1. Refuse campaign contributions and rely on word-of-mouth campaigns, like his students did.


2. Commit to only one term before re-entering the workforce.


3. Serve without pay.


4. Always tell the truth.


5. Stay away from professional lobbyists.


Jaffe said he hopes his campaign sets an example for ethical politics.


“I’ll take those 20,000 votes I earned over 3 million,” he said. “Because I did it the right way.”


Senators are paid $174,000 and serve a six-year term.


The primary will be April 26.






Please note the correction: The National Adult Youth Communications Law, signed by President Nixon, was in effect for one year only, not every year.