Silence of the Moderates: The Failure of the Republican Party to control its fringe element

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

In the aftermath of President Barack Obama signing the Health Care Reform Act, I have been observing the hateful, violent rhetoric of the far Right. Some of those acts, which included tea bagger protestors hurling racist and homophobic epithets at members of Congress who supported the health care bill.

The latest round of haterade involves the death threats received by the family of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) and by New York Congresswoman Louis Slaughter, windows being broken at the offices of Slaughter and Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Clifford (D); and the cutting of propane lines at the home of a Virginia Congressman’s brother after the address was posted online by Tea Party protestors.

After House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner singled out fellow Ohio Congressman, Rep.Steve Driehaus as a “dead man” who “can’t go back to his home in West Cincinnati” because “Catholics will run him out of town,” Tea Party members took out an ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer and published photos of Driehaus’ daughters.

Driehaus and other Democrats have correctly faulted Republicans for encouraging this kind of behavior. Leaders of the Republican Party have offered lukewarm condemnation of what amounts to acts of terrorism and have dismissed them as the individual acts of a few nuts. Other than that, the silence of Republican leadership has been deafening.

What’s even worse is that when House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) came out today with what I think was a half-hearted attempt to condemn the violence on the part of their extremist supporters. It ultimately turned into an attack on Democrats for taking the threats of violence that Cantor’s Republican colleagues whipped up through their rhetoric seriously. The response by Cantor should in no way be confused with taking responsibility for anything. It’s just another deflection and a tacit justification for what has happened in the last few days.

Where are the moderates in the Republican Party? Are there any reasonable people left in the party of Abraham Lincoln? I think I know that answer to that question especially after seeing 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin target Democratic House members by using a rifle periscope as a graphic.

Equally as appalling is the silence of African-American Republicans who have traditionally looked the other way and have failed to condemn the various acts of racism from their white Republican colleagues over the years.

When Civil Rights movement icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and another African-American Congressman were called, “nigger” and spat upon by Tea Party protestors, you would think a man like GOP chairman Michael Steele would have been up front in letting his colleagues know that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

The problem that a majority of the Black community has with African-American Republicans is that they lack the moral courage to confront their white colleagues on the pervasive racism that exists within the Republican Party. It is why African-Americans avoid voting Republican like the plague.

. Unfortunately, there are no Fannie Lou Hamers among African-American GOPers, who are only useful to the Republican Party when they want to put a Black face on one of their policies, especially those that are detrimental to the African-American community. At some point, maybe not in my lifetime, African-American Republicans will muster up the moral backbone to hold their white colleagues accountable for their racism.

At times when unreasonable elements guide the thinking of the masses, it is not just the tyranny of those people we abhor, it is the failure of those who know better but fail to lend their moral authority to denounce the injustice of their contemporaries. This was the frustration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the so-called good people of the South during the days of the Civil Rights Movement:

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

It is ultimately the failure of whatever reasonable elements that are left within the Republican Party to condemn the violent threats on the part of their supporters. Instead, the debate over the new health care reform law has become a symphony of gun-toting, brick throwing crazies who are threatening the lives of Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

That’s not honest debate or discourse. It is an act of terrorism.

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