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“Please forgive me,” wrote Tommy Raskin, a Harvard law student, before taking his life on the last day of 2020. “My illness won today.” He suffered from depression. His adoring father, U.S. Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, found him dead in his bed.

On Jan. 5, 2021, Tommy Raskin’s family buried him. On Jan. 6, Jamie Raskin went to the Capitol with his daughter and son-in-law for the vote count that would officially make Joe Biden president. He was in the building when the savage mob of thousands attacked. His family members hid under a desk, terrified.

Because the worst thing imaginable had already happened to Jamie Raskin, who could still hear the clumps of dirt landing on his son’s casket, he was unafraid. As he wrote in his book, Unthinkable, his son was “filling my chest with oxygen” and “propelling me forward to fight.”

In confronting both a horrendous personal tragedy and an inconceivable national one, Mr. Raskin’s fight was just beginning. A former constitutional law professor, he had previously led a House committee through a five-year probe of domestic terrorism and white nationalists. Despite his emotionally devastated condition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saw him as the best choice to spearhead impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

He was trenchant in that role. His words, given what he’d been through, bore visceral power. In recent months, he’s also had a pre-eminent role on the Jan. 6 select committee, investigating a cataclysm that, he noted, makes the Watergate break-in look like “a Cub Scout meeting.”

Were it not for Mr. Raskin and committee members such as Liz Cheney on the Republican side, so much of what happened could well have remained hidden. Though hundreds who took part in the insurrection have been charged, the Justice Department has, thus far, not gone after those who were involved from within the White House. As committee member Adam Schiff put it, “It is unprecedented for Congress to be so far out ahead of the Justice Department in a complex investigation.” Why, he said, have they not talked to the key witnesses that the committee has?

Mr. Raskin and the others have filled the void. In his riveting closing statement at the hearings last week, he recalled Mr. Trump’s talk of American carnage in his inaugural address. The phrase, he said, turned out to be an “excellent prophecy of what his rage would come to visit on our people.” American carnage, he said, is the former president’s “true legacy.”

As the towering moral force at the hearings, Mr. Raskin has emerged as a new star in his party and a bright hope in a country so badly in need of rescuers.

For her valiant work, Liz Cheney is about to lose her seat in Congress. In the Wyoming GOP primary, which is less than a month away, polls show her trailing challenger Harriet Hageman – who is supported by the party establishment – by about 20 points. You dare not speak truth to power in that party.

But Mr. Raskin, 59, is well-placed if not for a run for the Democratic nomination (though he’ll likely start appearing on short lists soon) then as Speaker of the House if Democrats retain a majority in it.

In a party dominated by old voices that people are tired of hearing, he is a fresh source of principle and conviction. Pete Buttigieg is a fine exception to the antique brigade but what are the chances of Americans electing a gay man? On that subject, here’s what Mr. Raskin once told a Republican state senator in Maryland: “When you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

Having once served as general counsel to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, the third-term congressman is well on the left of the party; he is a big backer of marriage equality, the Green New Deals and legalized marijuana.

All of which is to say, Mr. Raskin is hardly a good fit in an era when populist passions have a hold on much of the country. Once upon a time in America, men of sophistication and erudition and principle like him would be looked up to. In these times they are written off as elitists.

Jamie Raskin is a reminder that the U.S. can still produce leaders of a high calibre. In drawing on the oxygen of his departed son, his work in exposing the Republican conspiracy is a source of inspiration and hope for his party and people.

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