Silent Majority or Vocal Minority

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We have all heard the adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It seems that no one wants to hear the incessant squeak of a wheel day after day. In that same vein is seems that a very vocal minority oftentimes seems to prevail over a silent majority. Consider for a moment various situations we have witnessed in Alabama in recent years.

Chief Justice Roy Moore, and his very vocal supporters on various issues, finds a subject that will garner press attention and rally Moore’s very conservative base. It matters not whether Moore is correct in the position he espouses but he knows that from a political position he can garner strong support from a small group of very vocal supporters. Moore will make a public statement and it is like feeding red meat to caged lions. They pounce on the issue (meat) and very publicly do what is expected. It matters not that the position Moore may take is opposed by a large majority of Alabamians because Moore knows, and has been proven correct, that the majority, for the most part, will remain silent and his position is what will be reported on day after day in the press. Moore is a master in using his small and vocal minority to carry the day and advance his message.

Others in the political world will focus on an issue of great importance to them, identify strong supporters and plan a very visible release of the idea. Focus the attention of a few, talk the issue up and suddenly the idea begins to spread like a wildfire. Former Legislator now journalist Steve Flowers would liken this concept to the “friends and neighbors” concept in politics.

The theory goes that if you start to talk up a candidate in a rural setting and convince a small group that when those from rural Alabama go into the city to shop they start talking about how great a candidate, or idea, might be and folks suddenly start to think the idea, or candidate, will catch fire and the bandwagon begins. From a vocal minority the silent majority starts to be converted, or, more likely they do not oppose the idea and all of a sudden the vocal minority has taken control of the issue or the campaign.

You might also find that those who are passionate about an issue do not care what others might think about what they are trying to accomplish. Those passionate about a particular issue generally begin with a small vocal group. The silent majority either does not care strongly about the issue on either side or that silent majority does not want to get out in front of the issue for fear of reprisals from family, friends or business associates. The lack of any opposition being seen from the silent majority is seen as acquiescence by the silent majority and many times the vocal minority will prevail.

There are many other examples that could be laid out but the point is that a vocal minority will almost always prevail over a silent majority. With that in mind the citizens of Alabama need to become vocal. When considering the many issues facing the people of Alabama currently – the possible impeachment of our Governor, the conviction and removal from office of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, the suspension and possible trial and removal of the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court – it becomes very clear that it is time for the silent majority in Alabama to become very vocal. It is time that we, as the public, need to get far more engaged in the process of governing our state and bringing some sense of respectability back to public service. A former Montgomery Mayor, the late Emory Folmar, was often heard saying the “people are far more likely to do what you inspect rather than what you expect”. It is a natural thing that we expect public officials to do what is right and what is in the best interest of the state as a whole. While that might be a noble thought process the reality is that some in the political world feel that once elected they become invisible. The feeling of some is that no one will “inspect” again until time for the next election. As anyone who has children can attest if you do not hold your children accountable and keep the notion of who is in control in front of them your children will run over you. Once they get the upper hand it becomes very difficult to regain control. If in your role as a parent you exercise your control and make your wishes known, in a respectful way, the boundaries are set and your children will generally respect your authority. The key is to be firm but fair.

At what point will we the citizens of Alabama (the shareholders) become a vocal majority and let those to whom we have entrusted the management of our state (the Board of Directors) know that we are watching and that the expectation is that they should be providing the fiduciary care that was given to them in a manner in which we all – citizens and elected officials alike – can once again be proud. What will it take to get Alabama’s political climate off the late night talk shows as the joke of the day and have us respected and talked about as our highly regarded college sports teams in this state are? In the long running comic strip Pogo, cartoonist Walt Kelly, in 1953, wrote the words that are familiar to many of us “We have met the enemy and he is us”. If we, as the citizens of Alabama, do not stand up and make our voices heard as a vocal majority the vocal minority will continue to prevail and Pogo’s words will certainly apply to all of us. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

The Alabama House will reconvene at Noon on Tuesday, February 7, 2017
The Alabama Senate will reconvene at Noon on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The views and opinions contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the clients of Public Strategies, LLC