I’ve known a lot of brave people. I’ve even got pieces of paper from the Air Force labeling me brave, but I never bought it; holding an airplane aloft with your sphincter muscle needs a different adjective. What young people do in combat is not courage of the greatest sort. Your buddies’ regard for you is more powerful than fear to a soldier. Fighting alongside each other is wired into young men, eclipsing any notion of courage or your own good sense. The peer group and its pecking order is the most powerful force in all our lives.
The highest courage would be to purposely alienate yourself from the peers with whom you have worked hard and won victories and whose respect you have earned. To do so on a matter of principle is the rarest form of courage.
So it is with deep humility and amazement that I’ve learned that Michael Cudahy, a successful Republican Field Commander, has decided he can no longer tolerate the Neo-Conservative clique which has hijacked the Grand Old Party of my and Mr. Cudahy’s parents. This is no abstract event. Cudahy ran 8 states for Dubya’s dad, spending the 1988 Pennsylvania Primary season as a guest in the home of of his friend Tom Ridge. Go read his declaration, it’s more eloquent than any comments I have:
It’s a stunning announcement. Imagine a German official declaring in 1934 that he no longer believes in the Nazi party; that he will instead be supporting Polish independence. Further, he announces his intention before he leaves for Warsaw or has been formally embraced by the Poles. Our hypothetical German would be notable even if he announced it standing on a podium before the Polish people, but to do so before your new partners even understand your motives is courage on a Hancockian scale.
Rescuing his Inner Idealist
That’s what Michael Cudahy did yesterday. Somehow his inner idealist won. There are two internal forces competing for the loyalties of successful people in any hierarchy. You are proud of your principles, which you nonetheless compromise more each day as you gain skill at working the politics of your workplace or worse, your government. You go along and get along as a trusted team player until the linkage between your youthful values and your mature realities comes apart. Usually it’s the idealist who drowns.
The interesting part is that Cudahy’s not going to stop being a Republican. He understands the great things that Republicans have done for America, starting with Lincoln. He’s still proud of his party and should be. What he’s ashamed of is the behind-the-scenes insurrection managed by ingenious kleptocrats. Instead of becoming a Democrat, he wants to use his skills to attract Republicans and Independents to the Dean campaign:
Mystic Chords of Memory
That’s it! We’re all in this together! What a concept. On Tuesday night in New York, Howard Dean was introduced by Lowell Weicker, the legendary Republican-turned-Independent who taught everybody something about Republican principles as the young hero of the Watergate hearings:
Apparently it now takes real courage for a Republican to base action on principles. Ask informed Americans if they’re willing to risk the personal wrath of Karl Rove and most will decline the chance to stand up for their principles. It doesn’t occur to practical people to ponder the real problem:
Howard Dean’s early opposition to the Iraq War s
Circle the Welcome Wagons
If the Dean campaign wants to attract the radical center, as Cudahy calls the most of us, it has no greater opportunity than to embrace as many Republicans as possible, as fast as it can, using any means available. That requires profound cluefulness about how to make Republicans comfortable with a Democratic campaign.
Each of us has certain forms of etiquette which we expect and without which we feel dislocated. Among Democrats it’s tie-dyed shirts, women in comfortable shoes and 20 splinter-movement signs at every rally. Among mainstream Republicans, it includes a solid career, good grooming and a respect for the chain of command. Superficial profiling? Perhaps. But it’s a legitimate part of the complex calculus of managing a movement rather than a campaign.
It just never occurred to the Dems that the Rainbow Coalition might include people with shined shoes. This might be the party’s real test of its diversity.
Whether you’re an idealist nurturing a campaign into a movement, or a cynical operative coldly calculating electoral votes, you’d jump at the chance to build a Republican Safe House. You might even find a guy with proven principles and courage to run it.