Our friend Glenn Hurowitz has recently written a book and founded an organization both called Democratic Courage. It's all about giving our elected officials a needed shot of backbone, and he is reading from the book this Thursday at Books a Million in DC's Dupont Circle, as well as other spots near you (stay tuned here!) Glenn has to say about trade politics, which we'll cite later.
Here is one of the better definitions of courage I've seen, courtesy of Alain Badiou:
I would retain the status of courage as a virtue—that is, not an innate disposition, but something that constructs itself, and which one constructs, in practice. Courage, then, is the virtue which manifests itself through endurance in the impossible. This is not simply a matter of a momentary encounter with the impossible: that would be heroism, not courage. Heroism has always been represented not as a virtue but as a posture: as the moment when one turns to meet the impossible face to face. The virtue of courage constructs itself through endurance within the impossible; time is its raw material. What takes courage is to operate in terms of a different durée to that imposed by the law of the world. The point we are seeking must be one that can connect to another order of time.
This type of courage becomes all the more important in long reactionary periods like the one we find ourselves in now, fairly well detailed in a recent New York Times Magazine profile of corporations' victories at the Supreme Court. (The article discusses Public Citizen at length, although not all that accurately: the underlying premise that we're losing our lawyers is wrong - there hasn't been turnover in 4 years, and we maintain an excellent win-loss ratio that is quite a bit better than the U.S.' ratio at the WTO.) As Jeff Rosen writes in his conclusion to the piece:
What about the executive branch? It seems unlikely that John McCain, if he were elected president, would push back against the court: he has already pledged to appoint “judges of the character and quality of Justices Roberts and Alito,” rather than justices more devoted to states rights, like Scalia and Thomas. As for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both have sounded increasingly populist notes in an effort to attract union and blue-collar supporters, ratcheting up their attacks on corporate wealth and power, singling out the drug, oil and health-insurance industries and promising to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But despite their rhetoric, it is not clear that either candidate would actually appoint justices any more populist than Bill Clinton’s nominees. “I would be stunned to find an anti-business appointee from either of them,” Cass Sunstein, who is a constitutional adviser to Obama, told me. “There’s not a strong interest on the part of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn’t expect to see that in their Supreme Court nominees.”
Again, Badiou points out the task ahead (using terminology only acceptable in France): we are not just fighting for gains as we were in the 20th century, but literally (as in the 19th) defending the idea of social change itself.