COURAGE: a common medicine

Here is a recurrence that’s made me laugh.

In every Republican candidate’s book I have read so far, the candidate has, at one point, dramatically declared that what is missing from our political system is COURAGE.

On the one hand, this is a relatively common term in political rhetoric in the US.  On the other hand, some sentences are nearly identical, which strikes me as odd.  Jeb Bush says that “what has been lacking is political courage” (xxv); Scott Walker says “the path to a conservative comeback lies in… championing bold, conservative reforms…and having the courage to see them through” (8).  In keeping with his self-help format Ben Carson points the term toward his audience rather than politicians, saying that “finally, each of us must have courage” (7).

It’s a cliche of American political discourse that recognition and electability are dependent on the candidate’s establishment of their ‘brand.’  In this sense, I would think of these little buzzwords like ‘courage’ as a potential ‘trademarks.’  Each candidate mentions that what is needed is courage, then points to some people who have demonstrated courage, and finally, in Walker’s furthest stretching of the idea, ‘courage’ is recognized and becomes a mark of approbation among grassroots supporters.

I think this says a lot about the kind of candidate focus groups and/or campaign managers think the public wants.  In trying to claim, even implicitly, that the candidate has something no one else has, they all end up laying claim to the same thing.  The word collapses under the weight of its overuse.

Here is each candidate’s full usage of the word (in alphabetical order by candidate).  I may have missed some.  I will continue to update as I find them or keep reading.

Jeb Bush

“What has been lacking is political courage—the courage to face down the demagogues and to reach across the political aisle for the good of our nation” (xxv)

“That consensus is constantly  undermined, obviously by strident opposition at the extremes of both parties but also by a lack of political courage” (5)

“To meet America’s economic needs, we must have a complete overhaul of our immigration policy.  That in turn requires political courage and leadership” (73-74)

“Few elected officials, including President Obama, could summon the political courage to lead even as our dysfunctional immigration system exacerbated our nation’s economic woes” (139).

“Fortunately, courageous governors and other public officials are placing the interests of children above the special interests and advancing systemic education reform, as illustrated by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel facing down the unions over their opposition to needed reforms.  Many more—especially Democrats, who are often susceptible to union influence—need to place the interests of kids first” (182).

“Yet with technology, innovative public policy, and courageous leadership, our generation has within it the means to deliver at least on the sacred promise of educational opportunity.  There is no greater or more important legacy that we can leave to our children, to our children’s children, and to our nation” (196)

Ben Carson (for whom courage has its own index entry!)

“Finally, each of us must have courage… Because there are consequences for standing up for your beliefs in the current distorted version of America, one has to be very courageous when standing up to malicious influences or even while engaging in healthy dialogue with our neighbors about important issues” (6-7)

“To stop this, Americans need to recognize what is happening, speak up courageously, avoid fearful or angry responses, and ignore the barking and snarling as we put political correctness to bed forever” (13).

“But it is fair to say that most people admire courage and the willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal” (189)

“Do we have the courage to stand up for what we believe or will we continue to cower in the corner and hope no one sees us?” (204-5) (note the speed-up here in the conclusion—which is aptly titled “Take Courage”)

“One way to develop courage is to consider what will happen when we fail to act” (205)

“Our nation was formed by men and women of tremendous courage” (207).

“These courageous individuals refused to be blamed for bad outcomes when they not only did nothing wrong but had gone the extra mile…” (208)

“This example of courage was not lost on all the other students…” (208)

“I have seen numerous examples of courageous patients and families throughout my career” (208)

“The family never lost faith and endured many hardships, but had the courage and fortitude to persist in their efforts to save the child” (208)

“There are plenty of courageous people out there who can inspire all of us to undertake difficult tasks in order to achieve a better future” (209)

“We are still the home of the brave, and it is time for us to stand up and preserve our flag and our freedoms” (209) (I’m cheating picking ‘brave’ here, but close enough)

Scott Walker

“What we need is more courage” (dust jacket)

“I will show why it is a myth that winning the center requires moving to the center—and why the path to a conservative comeback lies not in abandoning our principles, but in championing bold, conservative reforms… and having the courage to see them through” (8, ellipsis original)

“It was a remarkable display of political courage” (38)

“I wasn’t asking them to be courageous for the sake of courage.  The only reason we were able to make the changes we did was the lack of any viable alternatives” (46)

“My answer was simple: because Dan had done something courageous” (136).

“Ryan had said it best in his speech at the Wisconsin Republican convention: “Courage is on the ballot on June 5th.”” (184)

“If we lost, however, I was convinced it would set the cause of courage in politics back a decade, if not a generation” (184).

“Hovering over a sea of supporters, I saw a sign: “You can’t recall courage!” I knew that despite this historic victory, I would need a lot more of it in the difficult days to come” (190)

“It is still amazing to me that politics is one of the few professions where keeping your word makes you “courageous.”” (231)

4 thoughts on “COURAGE: a common medicine

  1. Pingback: Taking Stock: a holiday roundup | 2016: to the reader

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