Newman: Come back, cowboys

No caption.
No caption. Photo by Zak Newman.

On Monday, Senator Evan Bayh assailed his Congress and bowed out of a third term. His Congress, of course, can’t seem to get anything done — not health care, not bank bills, not solving the crisis in Iran. There is a lack of fortitude, honor and responsibility plaguing this government, like others before it. This dearth can only be filled by two things: spurs and a ten-gallon hat. In short, our nation needs more cowboys.

I’m not suggesting that senators walk the halls of Congress with their hand resting on their six-shooter or that they adopt a folksy twang. But, our elected representatives could learn a thing or two from the oft romanticized ranch hand: the Lone Ranger, righter of injustice wherever he saw it, the brave Pecos Bill, who rode a tornado like a bucking bronco and carved out the Rio Grande, the self-disciplined and compassionate Walker, Texas Ranger (you might know him as “Chuck Norris”).

Some people back home claim that there’s something special about the Lone Star state — its long, rolling fields; its deep, boundless sky; its rich and living history that created these giants among men. I disagree. Anyone, even a Democrat, can be a cowboy.

Indeed, the Democrats could use some buckaroos who will fight for what they profess to believe in, stay strong despite the odds and hold their honor and responsibility above all else. There are Democrats who endeavor to live up to this code, to be sure. On the whole though, too many have slumped into the comfort of the status quo and the practice of posturing in hopes of scoring political points. They’ve made deals, like Senator Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker kickback,” that detract from the true objective of the political process and violate the trust of the electorate.

And on Thursday, Organizing for America — President Obama’s campaign-turned-activism organization — sent out an e-mail introducing a program named “you fight, we’ll fight” to recruit campaign volunteers for members of Congress “who fight hard for health reform.” Apparently, members of Congress need an extra incentive to continue supporting a seemingly politically contentious reform that they already signed on to months ago and that polls show the majority of Americans still support.

This should not be the case. The statistics of the health care crisis are only getting worse. Democrats must take on Republican scare tactics and stand up for the critical reforms they have proposed. When the bull bucks, cowboys tighten their grip, dig in their heals and make it through; they do not to run for the hills.

Some may think this view idealist, that working around elections, cutting deals and pacifying interest groups are simply part of a good politician’s toolkit. To some extent, maybe they are. But is it impossible that the principled, courageous approach is also the best political approach? I don’t think so. Voters will give credit where credit is due. There’s a reason that voters flocked to then-candidate Obama in 2008. He was a courageous character who would fight for what was right. If Democrats want to maintain the majorities they’ve enjoyed in Congress for the past two years, they need to show voters that they are willing to fight for the vision they promised in 2008.

Admittedly, the romanticized concept of the cowboy, as espoused in old television shows, is just an ideal. The grandiose belt buckles, glinting spurs and obnoxiously large hats worn by bull riders and country music stars today are more a function of association with a heroic concept rather than with the actual cowboys of past and present. We want to believe in the code of cowboys for the same reason that any of us want to believe in super heroes: They represent a more perfect, braver, nobler image of ourselves. While no one is capable of such a high standard, our politicians must shoot for it, for their own self-preservation and the prosperity of country.

Zak Newman is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College and the events coordinator for the Yale College Democrats.

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