Profiles of Courage?
By Patrick F. Cannon
Wherein lies political courage? And of what does it consist?
I am an American living in Illinois, and I have been struggling to find answers to these questions. On the national level, we see a once proud political party pathetically trying to rationalize its support for a presumptive presidential candidate who is at least a world class narcissist if not an actual lunatic. For their trouble, they are risking the possible destruction of the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. And why? Because, presumably, they fear the victory of Hillary Clinton more than the loss of their own souls.
I do not like or respect Hillary Clinton. She has shown, throughout a checkered career, that there is no position she is not willing to change for political expediency (to be fair, she is not unique in this shabby flexibility). Trade policy is only one of many where she has done an about face. Once a supporter – NAFTA, after all, was one of her husband’s triumphs – she has caved in to her party’s left wing and union supporters to oppose free trade policies that have helped reduce extreme poverty in the world from 44 percent in 1980 to 12.7 percent in 2012, according to the World Bank.
Yet, I would vote for her rather than Donald Trump. While she is a cynical opportunist, she is at least an experienced, informed and probably competent opportunist. Like presidents before her, many of her ambitions will be reined in by a recalcitrant Congress. And she will feel free, like most politicians, to forget her campaign promises.
A Trump victory will bring the country into uncharted territory, and if it happens, the Republican establishment will be as guilty as he. Here are the names of just a few of the Republicans who have betrayed their principles by endorsing Trump: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, John Boehner, Dick Cheney, Bob Dole, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Rance Priebus (who at least is paid to be a huckster for the party). The honor roll of those who have refused to endorse Trump is shorter: all the Bushes, Mitt Romney, Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and a few others. Important conservative media figures like George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Joe Scarborough have said they will not support Trump, even though the thought of another Democrat in the White House turns their stomachs.
As to Illinois, the current pickle we’re in is the triumph of hubris over the public interest. While there is plenty of blame to go around, on balance it’s the refusal of the arrogant Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan, to countenance any compromise that would give even the slightest credit to Governor Rauner, whose own arrogance is wearing thin. The Democrat legislators have the power to send Madigan into retirement, but not the guts. I realize that he controls campaign funds, but I sometimes wonder if he isn’t also the J. Edgar Hoover of Illinois politics, with secret files on all of his minions.
All of these messes are the strongest argument I know of for term limits. With them, most of the names I’ve mentioned would be back practicing law in Podunk (perhaps not good news for Podunk, but there you are).
I’m reminded of Britain in 1940, when the failed policies of Neville Chamberlain before and during the early days of World War II had caused Conservative member Leo Amery to rise in Parliament and directly address his own party leader. At the end of his speech, he spoke these words, quoting Oliver Cromwell’s speech to the 17th Century Long Parliament: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart I say and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon