Courage: The Most Overused Word In Politics

Does it take political courage for a California Democrat to attack Donald Trump? Obviously not, just as it didn’t take political courage for a red-state Republican to attack Barack Obama. To qualify as courageous, a political act must threaten the actor’s political future. Neither of the foregoing examples qualifies. Qualifying examples include Abraham Lincoln, who took on every political interest and more to preserve our union, and Lyndon Johnson, who took on his own party to pass civil rights legislation. More recent examples include Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island who took on the most powerful interests in her party in order to protect services for citizens, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took on both political parties in leading successful efforts to end gerrymandering and partisan primaries in California. Not every action taken by those actors was courageous — look no further than LBJ’s Vietnam legacy. Each political action must be evaluated separately.