There is no doubt that the buzzword of the 2008 campaign was 'hope'. Mark my words, the buzzword of the 2010 elections will be 'courage'. On the national level, we've seen acts of courage: voting for health care, standing up for the environment, supporting the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We've also seen acts of cowardice: spreading lies about supposed death panels, insulting the dignity of a man with Parkinson's, yelling racial and homophobic slurs in our nation's capital. It's not surprising then that we've seen Ohio Senate candidate (and current Secretary of State) Jennifer Brunner make 'courage' her predominant campaign slogan. Why courage, though? I think Friedrich Nietzsche summed it up best:
"We do not place especial value on the possession of a virtue until we notice its total absence in our opponent."
That virtue is courage, and Brunner faces a unique challenge: in order to win a Senate seat, she must defeat TWO cowards. The Republican challenger, Rob Portman, is cozy with the Teabaggers -- this is documented. Her primary opponent, Lee Fisher, while not exactly a Teabagger, is certainly lacking in courage.
Courage is taking a principled stand, not when something is popular, but when it is right. Lately, Lee Fisher has been visiting gay bars presenting himself as some sort of gay messiah. This could not be further from the truth. In 2006, while Fisher was running for Lt. Governor, he responded to an HRC survey that he was against marriage equality. That's not courage, but it was the "politically popular" thing to do. At the beginning of this campaign for US Senate, Fisher announced that he was neither for or against gay marriage, he was 'undecided'. That's not courage. After he saw LGBT Ohioans flocking to Jennifer Brunner's campaign, he released a press release saying that he was against the government restricting anyone's right to marriage. That's not courage, that's not a commitment to fight on our behalf, that's a promise you won't restrict our rights further.
Courage is staying true to your values, regardless of which office you're running for. As a state legislator, Fisher was against the death penalty. That IS courage. When he ran for Attorney General in 1992, he announced that he was tough on crime and FOR the death penalty. That is NOT courage.
Courage is being able to turn down money from questionable sources. Fisher has taken tens of thousands of dollars from Health Insurance PACs and CEOs. That's not courage. He's taken tens of thousands of dollars from big banks and their CEOs. That's not courage. He's even accepted money from the COO and Director of Lehman Brothers, Gary Cohn. That's not courage, Lee.
Now, it may seem like I'm trying to cast Lee Fisher as a coward. That's not exactly true, I believe in giving credit where credit is due. It is courageous of Lee Fisher to run for office yet again after being defeated in the Attorney General race in 1992 and in the Gubernatorial race in 1996.
Jennifer Brunner just announced an exciting and ambitious new project: The Courage Express. It's a bus tour that will take her all around the state, and she will spread her message of courage to as many people as possible. I encourage you to head over to her Courage Express page now and contribute, suggest locations for the Courage Express to go, or to partake in a day-long conversation about what it means to be courageous.