Apr 142016 1 Response

Political Courage or Political Cowardice?

There is a subtle difference between political courage and political cowardice.

We think there is a gulf between the two. The results are so radically different we can’t imagine that anyone would ever confuse such polar opposites. Yet it happens often.

Cowardice often masquerades as courage. No one wants to admit they are acting in cowardice, especially someone whose livelihood is built on public opinion. We don’t like cowards so politicians can’t be seen as such. However, they often act the part. To do so, they must mask their cowardice as an act of strength.

Political Courage and Political Cowardice

Political courage happens when those with little political influence are protected at the risk of offending those with political power. (See: Why I Discourage Christians From Politics)

  • Help someone who voted against you at the risk of offending someone who donated to your campaign.
  • Protect the interests of someone who can’t vote even if it denies the interest of someone who got you elected.
  • Serve to act in a way that will never be seen even if it causes you to miss a good photo op.

This is political courage.

Political cowardice looks very similar. The same formula is at play–help one at the expense of the other. But when cowardice is at work, the victim has little influence and no retribution. The one helped is the powerful person or group.

Political cowardice happens when those with great political influence are protected at the expense of those with no political clout. Yet cowards can’t come out and tell the truth–“we are going to win a political point at the expense of the disenfranchised.” They have to mask what they are doing. They have to invent a political power which they are claiming to attack while hiding the beneficiaries of their actions.

A Local Example

This is currently happening in my home state. In a gross oversimplification of the situation, a few members of the State legislature are trying to win political points at the expense of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Not liking what the federal government is doing, they are attempting to reject federal funds which will result in a disruption of services for our most vulnerable citizens (including children with special needs).

If they get their way, their supporters will cheer the political victory, but my daughter won’t receive her physical therapy. They will probably reap great benefits in political donations, but my friend’s child may not be able to attend school. Their political clout will grow while those with very little influence will suffer. (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative or Liberal as You Think)

Notice: they will claim they have stood up against the Big Bad Government in order to help the little people. But in reality, they will change nothing regarding the Federal government and will be benefiting themselves as they hurt the most vulnerable among us. It’s not courage; it’s cowardice.

You want to show political courage:

  • Tell your donors you might have to end one of their tax credits.
  • Cut spending on a program that benefits the powerful.
  • Be a Democrat and encourage spending cuts.
  • Be a Republican and encourage tax increases.
  • Be a member of the Tea Party and encourage compromise.
  • Work with your opponent to the chagrin of your friends.
  • Compliment someone from the other party.
  • Call out a member of your own party.

Courage demands something from us. We are the ones at risk. Cowardice causes us to put others at risk.

Last week, one state Senator claimed to be playing a game of “hard chicken” and the only thing which might fix the problem is a “crash.” When chicken is played by two equal opponents, it might be a fair game. When the game is played between a political powerhouse and children with special needs, it’s not a noble fight.

I know the game of politics isn’t easy and I know tough choices have to be made. But cutting services to the most vulnerable among us is not a bold move. It’s the way of the coward.

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