The word “courage” gets thrown around pretty casually in discussions about politics.
But examples of real courage are rare. For the most part, politicians of both parties follow the routes that are safest for them – even when they know they are wrong. Take Arizona Senator John McCain, once an advocate for humane and responsible immigration reform, but now a defender of the crude anti-immigrant crusade implemented by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her legislative cronies.
McCain knows he is wrong. But he also knows that he faces a tough Republican primary challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, an immigrant-bashing extremist who has dialed up the crazy by backing demands that President Obama produce a birth certificate to prove he was born in the United States.
Unfortunately, in Arizona these days, beating up immigrants has become the preferred practice of play-it-safe politicians.
But not all elected official in Arizona is playing it safe.
There actually are a few statesmen (and women) left. For instance, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a Democrat, has been proposed a lawsuit to block the Arizona law. Gordon says: “America is a country that is compassionate and that welcomes everyone. This is not what this country and this state was founded upon.”
Similarly, State Representative Krysten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who serves as her party’s assistant leader in the state House, is working with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund to organize legal challenges to what she dismisses as “worst immigration bill in the country.”
First and foremost among the courageous dissenters by any measure, however, is Congressman Raul Grijalva, who has taken the lead in opposing the anti-immigrant legislation signed by Brewer.
While many other top Democrats have been cautious and bureaucratic in their criticism of Brewer, Grijalva has been outspoken and unyielding. Showing the skills of the organizer he once was, the congressman has pulled together rallies and coordinated opposition in Arizona and Washington, where on Wednesday Grijalva was set to be joined by several House Democratic Caucus colleagues at a press conference denouncing the Arizona legislation.
Even in the face of threatened violence, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has refused to back off or back down. And it is his combination of courage and consistency that has helped to frame the opposition to the law.
The congressman decried the legislation in a letter to President Obama, which declared Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” as “a dangerous and mean spirited law that improperly imposes state law upon Federal prerogatives relating to matters of foreign policy, immigration and naturalization.”