Martin Casas is a resident of St. Louis City. Originally from Southern California he spent the 2000’s working on various democratic campaigns, organizations like Americans for Democratic Action, the DNC, MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO and the White House. After moving to St. Louis in 2005 with his wife, Kate, for a TFA stint, Martin started a local business called Frontyard Features and took over the Young Democrats of St. Louis and became active in local politics. His daughter Sophie is incredibly photogenic. Follow him on twitter at @MARTIN_CASAS.
by Martin Casas
It’s hard to say that there are a lot of decisions made in politics that are truly courageous. We think of political courage as a stirring orator standing at the podium shouting his ideals and changing the world with each pounding of his fist. The audience erupts in applause and cheers, their minds changed and the world made better. In reality, that maybe has happened….5 times? Let’s say 5 times.
In modern history, you could say President Obama staking his entire presidency on Health Care Reform was courageous. Certainly Governor Chris Christie admonishing the leadership of his own party for their failure to act with aide for relief of Hurricane Sandy was courageous. Senator Richard Durbin of the same state of the god awful Cubs (Hey, I’m from St. Louis.) held a hearing called “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims” during a time of hostility toward the Islamic community, that is certainly courageous.
It’s not stirring speeches that make change. It’s the meetings, hearings and discussions in between. It’s sitting down and hashing out the solution. Unfortunately a lot of times we have legislators that don’t know how to do that. It’s not there fault, we elect regular people to the Legislature who don’t spend time arguing their ideas and not getting offended when someone has a differing point from them. It’s a bunch of type A personalities that decide to run for office and have people pat them on the back and tell them how great they are most of the time(these people are commonly referred to as lobbyists. It’s an effective way to get something they need done.).
The first step to political courage is admitting you may be wrong. That issue you campaigned on may not be right. It’s sitting down and talking to the person on the other side and forging that collaboration so both sides get what they want. John Boehner says that compromise is a bad word- he may be right. It implies that someone has to lose. Colaboration means everyone gets something, so let’s use that mindset. Our legislative process is stuck. We can’t move ahead because we have too few people in a position of power that need to work with the middle of the road people. Winston Churchill gave some good advice, he said “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Because of the primary system you get the best candidate who is the most extreme of the party of the voters in the district (Moderates come from 45%-52% districts). These are elected officials that are set in their ways and feel justified to not listen to the opposition- because they won’t need them to win an election. The very idea of working with the other side is tantamount to betraying your party.
Political courage isn’t just getting everyone to hear what you have to say, it’s listening to what everyone else has to say as well. With Sandy Hook, millions of people trapped in poverty, a failing education system, a continuing health care crisis and everything else in between it’s time we demanded our government show real courage and take the chance that they will lose an election and admit they may be wrong. Because while they are clinging on too these idealogical reduncoes, people are suffering. Politicians will keep getting their tax payer funded paychecks, and people will get booted to the streets. Electeds need to go back to their districts and educate their constitiuents on thier positions. That’s what real leadership is. Right now we have elected followers, elected officials who will do what their voters say to win re-election- not advance our society.
It’s not just gun policy. It’s healthcare. It’s education. It’s drug policy. It’s tax fairness. It’s entitlement reform. It’s pension reform. There are a lot of basic truths that both sides recognize, and it’s going to take the courage of these elected leaders admitting the talking points may be wrong and really work out solutions.