By Michael M. Clements | September 28, 2017 | People
The word brave is borrowed from medieval French braverie meaning bravado, challenge and audacity. To stand out and survive, politicians need a combination of all three. The ubiquitous nature of news and information—fake or otherwise—has dismantled the acceptance of the watered-down public servant. We live in a time when the heavily scripted, overly coiffed, hackneyed representative of the past is losing ground, or just plain losing. But allegiance to personal conviction can lead to pariah status—no doubt the men on our list have both basked in the glow of acceptance and grappled with moments of abandonment for following their convictions. For that, they deserve our acknowledgment for standing up for what they believe in whether or not you, me, their supporters or party leadership agree.
No other president in modern history has spoken his mind so openly as Mr Trump. His unfiltered approach has led to a daily diet of support and outrage. Love it or hate it, his penchant for unapologetically sounding off is something no other chief executive has had the nerve to attempt. It’s also a main reason his message resonated with middle America during his presidential bid. As Michael Moore not so eloquently stated, “He’s the human Molotov cocktail that [his supporters have] been waiting for.” And by crossing the aisle to negotiate with Democrats to get a three-month extension on the debt ceiling, POTUS is showing his audacity is not confined to words.
When the biopic of Senator McCain’s life is made, the editors are going to have a hard time deciding which chapters to keep. No other living politician’s life and career has had as many twists, turns and incarnations as the venerable senator from Arizona. First injected into the American consciousness as a battletested soldier in Vietnam, this maverick’s failed presidential bid will simply become a footnote in a long and distinguished career. Senator McCain has saved his most stout-hearted stand for the latter stages of his life. While fighting brain cancer, he valiantly returned to Capitol Hill to cast the deciding nay vote on the repeal of Obamacare and has shown the guts to put country above party, recently writing in a The Washington Post op-ed, “We must, where we can, cooperate with (President Trump). But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”
You don’t become a CIA operations officer with tours in Afghanistan and Pakistan followed by becoming the first black Republican to be elected to the House from Texas without being fearless. Hurd’s district stretches 800 miles along the United States and Mexican border. Although he has voted 95 percent in step with the president, this former undercover spy and fluent Urdu speaker wasn’t afraid to deviate from Trump’s vow to build a wall along the border, reiterating his opposition to the proposal just days into the new presidency. Hurd was also one of 20 Republicans to vote against the House GOP leadership’s health care bill. In an interview with Sirius XM’s “Full Stop with Mark Preston,” he stated, “I follow very simple principles, I agree when I agree... and I disagree when I disagree.”
Perhaps no other word strikes fear in the hearts of the loyal party base than “bipartisanship.” To hard-liners, it’s original political sin. The term’s rebranding from co-operative term of endearment to bureaucratic scarlet letter has stealthily been inculcated by party operatives and like-minded media outlets which have systematically nurtured an etymological transformation one echo at a time. That’s why these two legislators get the nod. As Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the pair oversee a 15-person panel which represents one of the last examples of across-the-aisle coaction on Capitol Hill. It’s even more heroic when considering the panel’s role in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
For a Harvard grad and former college president with a Ph.D. in history from Yale, it seems ironic that a viral Facebook would be your ticket to notoriety. During the 2016 presidential election, Sasse wrote he “could not support Trump.” He went further, bravely casting aside party allegiance, writing: “Political parties are not families; they are not religions; they are not nations—they are often not even on the level of sports loyalties. They are just tools. I was not born Republican. I chose this party, for as long as it is useful. If our Party is no longer working for the things we believe in… then people of good conscience should stop supporting that party until it is reformed.”
In June, the political establishment looked on in horror as word spread that an active shooter had taken aim on a Republican congressional softball practice. Scalise sustained a bullet wound to the hip, causing severe bleeding and damage to his bones and internal organs. He was in critical condition before undergoing several surgeries and finally being released a month later. Back in action, Scalise faces friendly fire from establishment Republicans as he emerges on a short list of conservative candidates tapped to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan in the event of a House Freedom Caucus leadership coup.
Larry Hogan is having a moment. He is one of the highest-rated governors in the country according to the media-and-survey research firm Morning Consult. Notable since, much to the chagrin of Democrats, he is a Republican in a deep blue state. He helped steer Baltimore and the state through the socio-cultural storm generated from the Freddie Gray trial, and he survived a life-threatening bout with an advanced and aggressive form of lymphoma cancer. Afterward, flanked by the doctors who saved his life, Governor Hogan announced an initiative to save more lives from cancer, which is Maryland’s second largest killer, claiming more than 10,000 citizens annually.
Somewhere between the end of the Obama era and the start of the Trump era, Russia went from a reliable GOP boogeyman to “nothing to see here, please move on.” Adam Kinzinger is not having it. He told The Global Politico he was prepared to wage a rebellion and raise “holy hell” in the face of White House efforts to tamper down a bill enacting sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s government. He also chastised Donald Trump Jr. for claiming to Sean Hannity that his meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was “opposition research,” stating in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, “What I do know in the very least is if I got an email that said: ‘Hey, Congressman Kinzinger, we have information on the government or on your opponent,’ I would walk it to the FBI and say: ‘We have a problem. Do you want us to do a counterinvestigation on them?’”
When a politician is “the first,” you know they have the fearless gene. Ellison’s appetite for shaking up the establishment goes beyond becoming the first Muslim elected to Congress. He raised eyebrows in 2015, stating on ABC’s This Week, “(Trump) has got some momentum and we better be ready for the fact that he might be leading the Republican ticket.” His fellow panelists chuckled. Reading the tea leaves, Ellison bucked the Democratic establishment and became an early and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders. He was appointed deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee recently, cementing a party foothold for progressives in the post-Clinton era.
Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, the title of Flake’s new book may also be the best description for the way this Republican senator and devout Mormon leads. An outspoken advocate for protecting immigrants, Flake is not afraid to stand up to the president and he takes the fight personally. In his book, which The Washington Post op-ed editor Michael Gerson called, “The single biggest act of political bravery of the Trump era,” Flake writes: “When we say ‘No Muslims,’ or ‘No Mexicans,’ we may as well say ‘No Mormons.’” His stance has placed him soundly in the president’s crosshairs, who tweeted that it was “great” former state legislator Kelli Ward was challenging Flake in the Republican primary.
This lone Democrat from the deep red state of West Virginia serving in the U.S. Congress walks the walk. He will meet and interview with far right and left and work to compromise. He told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that? If they think because I’m up for election that I can be wrangled into voting for sh*t that I don’t like and can’t explain, they’re all crazy.” He put that into practice by supporting the president’s stance on DACA. “I think it was reasonable what he did, what the president did, in saying it’s the legislature’s responsibility to fix this thing,” Manchin told Talking Points Memo.
OPENER SPREAD PHOTO BY TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL/NEWSCOM VIA ZUMA.
TRUMP PHOTO BY NOAM GALAI/WIREIMAGE; MCCAIN PHOTO BY ZUMA PRESS, INC./ALAMY STOCK PHOTO. HURD PHOTO BY ANDREW HARNIK FOR THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES.
BURR PHOTO BY WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES; WARNER PHOTO BY CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES