OH, MY GOD! What have we done?
Who are these people coming to Washington?
How did we get a woman senator who opposes the ERA, another senator who thought premarital sex in the Third World was an election issue and a whole bunch of others who think that sin can be legislated off the face of this earth with just a few well-aimed constitutional amendments? The Moral Meanies are loose. They are coming to Washington.
I don't despair for the fallen liberals. They are all good guys, nice men and women, with a wonderful sense of humor and a benevolent feeling about this city on the Potomac. But the truth of the matter is that liberalism is an almost empty barrel. It has nothing more to say, no new ideas, nothing fresh. It has all been said. It has all been done.
And it is not such a bad thing for the nation to send forth the Great Scouring Pad to scrub down the government a bit. It would be okay if the great programs of liberalism were asked, to justify themselves, if the excess of the last 20 years were rolled back a bit, if all the agenices and departments were asked, politely of course, just what in the hell they have been doing. I am for that.
But down at the bottom of that all-but-empty barrel of American liberalism, was a heart -- a bleeding heart, maybe, but a heart, nonetheless. It is that little piece of American liberalism that is emotional, that is sentimental, that sings Irish songs and drinks too much beer and talks with an accent and knows how farms can turn to dust, and riches to poverty, and good people into, well, something else. It is the part of American liberalism that cared about the poor and the black and about the civil liberties of all people -- but especially people who have neither the money nor the clout nor the education to take care of themselves.
This is the part of American liberalism that we will wind up missing. This is the part of American liberalism that is as much under attack as its economic programs -- budget deficits and all that. Okay, goodbye to all that. Good riddance to that. But what is taking its place is a movement that not only is concerned with economics, but with morality as well. It thinks it has a right -- a God-given right at that -- to legislate it for all of us, to ram it down our throats.
I am talking now of the Moral Meanies, those newly elected and those already in place, who want a constitutional amendment for everything under the sun -- except, of course, ERA. They want one to forbid abortion under any circumstances -- for the poor and the rich and the raped and the incestuous and even those who know that they will give birth to an abnormal child of some kind.
They want a constitutional amendment for prayers in the school. They want it for themselves, but they want it also for all the people in the country who see no reason to have prayer in the school, who say, reasonably enough, pray at home or in a church, why in a school? Tell me, what will this prayer say? Will it mention Allah or Buddha? Will it permit a little dancing, a little incense-burning? Will it be framed in such a way that all kids in this great and varied land will feel comfortable saying it. Any prayer that broad would be the liturgical equivalent of a Big Mac.
There is something chilling about seeing these new members of the Senate heading this way, each and every one with a very narrow agenda, each one with a personal constiutional amendment that would broaden rights -- the ERA -- they oppose.
They are entitled to their views, and they are entitled to vote them. But they also have an obligation not to further divide the nation, to remember that this country is bigger and more diversified than the people who elected them or who, for that matter, financed them. They ought to remember that they also will be representing those who voted against them, not to mention the 73.3 per cent of the people who either did not vote for Ronald Reagan or did not vote at all. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the true silent majority.
In fact, the true test for Ronald Reagan and, for that matter, for Howard Baker, will not be a tax cut or a swell military budget.It will be whether they have the political guts to stare down the Moral Meanies or if, like Dwight Eisenhower in the McCarthy era, they will find it easier to look the other way, play some golf and let the movement spend itself of its own accord -- not, however, before some real damage has been done.
Reagan, Baker and the new Republican majority in the Senate ought to remember, finally, that the term 'Moral Majority' is a propagandist's wish and not an actual fact. They ought to remember, in short, that this country is broad and fat and diversified, filled with people who hear different drummers. The one I hear in the distance, for instance, fills me with foreboding.