Losing the Silent Majority

Jesse Abrams-Morley

If you can’t beat ’em, impeach ’em. Or kill ’em.

That’s the new motto of the Religious Right. Furious at their inability to “save” Terri Schiavo, Pat Robertson’s minions have rediscovered their favorite punching bag: the judiciary.

At a conference earlier this month in Washington sponsored by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, the punching bag of choice was Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Based on Kennedy’s judicial opinions opposing execution of juveniles and anti-sodomy laws, at least three speakers called for his impeachment, according to The Washington Post. One accused Kennedy of upholding “Marxist, Leninist, Satanic principles.” For those of you unfamiliar with Kennedy, he was appointed by that famous lover of Marxism, Ronald Reagan, and cast the deciding vote that put into office that famous Satan worshipper, George W. Bush.

Lest you think these are just the musings of a handful of nutballs, consider that a pair of congressmen and two senatorial aides attended the conference. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R.-Texas, was scheduled to appear as well but canceled to attend John Paul II’s funeral.

At a time when judges find themselves quite literally under attack, you would expect public officials to loudly and clearly condemn violence against government employees. Yet both DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., have made threatening comments about judges in recent weeks, with Cornyn virtually blaming violence against the judiciary on judges making “political decisions.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Religious Right, buoyed by the perception that so-called moral-values voters played a key role in President Bush’s re-election, are so drunk on power that they have lost touch with the great majority of Americans — what Richard Nixon used to call the “Silent Majority.”

We in today’s Silent Majority are men and women, Democrats and Republicans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. We have differing views on the tax system, on abortion and on the meaning of life. What we share is a desire to see our problems solved by respectful and civil deliberation, not by protesters holding giant cardboard spoons in front of a hospice in Florida.

We may not always agree with judges’ decisions, but we respect their role within our government. And the last thing we want is for our elected leaders to use threats of impeachment and violence to bully an independent branch of government into compliance with a highly partisan agenda.

Just as the excesses of the far left in the late 1960s helped drive the Silent Majority into Nixon’s camp, there are already signs that the new Silent Majority is fed up with the far right’s shenanigans. Countless polls showed that most Americans disagreed with President Bush and Congress’ meddling in the Schiavo affair. Recently, DeLay was forced to back off some of his more dramatic anti-judiciary hate speech amid calls for his resignation from his leadership post.

But the work is not done. If we in the new Silent Majority want better from our leaders, we have to make our voices heard. We must contact our representatives and let them know that we reject this kind of extremism. And in 2006 and 2008, we must speak loudly at the polls, ridding the halls of Congress of demagogues like DeLay who seek to reduce our politics to a game of who can scream loudest and carry the biggest stick.

After Schiavo’s death, a protester outside her hospice held up a sign reading, “This is how the Holocaust began.” In a way, that demonstrator was right. For it is only when the great majority of citizens remain silent in the face of inflammatory, hateful and violent rhetoric that the vicious few can perpetrate such a great evil.

Former Forum editor and Daily columnist Jesse Abrams-Morley is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]