Profiles In Courage

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In 1955 Harper Collins published a book called “Profiles in Courage” that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. John F. Kennedy wrote “Profiles” as a US Senator while recuperating from back surgery. The book is a great read and profiles eight US Senators who, in the course of US history, showed the courage to break from their party or public opinion to do what was right for country, regardless of the political price they had to pay for their actions.

In retrospect the idea sounds quaint. It’s been generations since anyone in the US Senate took the chance of those covered in “Profiles”. Many have taken chances, but calculated political chances to advance party standing or pet projects. When our nation needed it most these special individuals stood up for the greater good. We are now at a point in our nation’s history where we need more US Senators to show that same unique courage.

Thanks to years of fiscal and moral neglect at the hands of those who would call themselves Conservatives the country has been nearly bankrupted. In a fiscal way by irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy that were supposed to produce millions of jobs, but only turned surpluses into deficits as far as the eye can see. These policies contributed to corporations moving good paying jobs overseas while what minimal job growth we had was in temporary or low end service positions. They too were easily shed as we entered the Great Recession.

From a moral standpoint it would be unconscionable for real Conservatives to allow our government to trample on our privacy through programs like wiretapping and treating the constitution as if it were just a partisan roadblock to be maneuvered around. Real Conservatives despise water-boarding. They cringe at the thought of $2 trillion worth of tax cuts to the wealthy while waging a trillion dollar war. Get queasy with companies and families straddling their future with historic debt levels.

Conversely, Progressive representatives have done little more than window dressing to tackle issues like healthcare and joblessness and blamed that indecisiveness on just the threat of a filibuster. All the while a majority of Americans wonder why the way forward took a backseat to gridlock. How a minority of 41 wields more power than a majority of 59. Progressives can see the future of how the rhetoric of “no” will displace their majority in a mere seven months, but they have no idea what to do about it.

Here’s an answer that can be found buried between the lines in the pages of “Profiles”. Grow a pair. Pack your boxes in preparation, do what needs to be done, and hope for the best. Rhetoric is not reality- even in Washington, D.C. The “Party of No” keeps saying that Progressives should not force a healthcare plan down the throats of Americans who do not want it. Well, that’s sort of correct, Americans overwhelmingly want a Public Option, not this mess we call compromise- where one party gives in and the other just continues to say no. Show courage and pass a plan without support of the other side because it is good for America and will save our country billions of dollars.

We all know Progressives are weak on terror, right? We are told that they let the underwear bomber almost successfully bring down a US airliner. They were weak because it “almost” happened. Because the dots were not connected in the intelligence community- a community where career analysts with years of experience left in droves over the last ten years thanks to an onslaught of political appointees vetting what intelligence was worth reporting. Are Progressives weak because they came out and publically said “we screwed up”? Is honesty a liability in the bizzarro universe of politics? Should the Executive Office have just blamed it on some lower level career spy and claimed to have never seen a certain briefing. Yes, let’s talk morality folks.

I can go on with how effective rhetoric has shaped the political debate rather than effective leadership, but that would just play into a larger game plan of obfuscation for ideological gain. But we’re at a point in our history where we need decisive action, even if it means alienating those who would rather keep the status quo because it benefits them and their interests. We need courage and I would hope that our elected representatives do what’s right for the country rather than if it will get them elected in the next cycle.

Vance B. Barbour
Woodhaven, New York

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