Maxine Waters and the Need to Just Shut Up
California Congresswoman Maxine Waters has gotten herself into trouble again. This time Waters was commenting on the Derrick Chauvin murder trial where she said that if the jury finds him not guilty, then protesters need to “get more confrontational.” I will leave it up to other, smarter people to decide whether Waters’ remarks constitute jury intimidation, but if Waters had just kept her mouth shut then the question would not even have had to been asked.
For Waters and those she was speaking to, silence is violence. The phrase conveys that those who are silent on injustice are perpetuating by not joining The Cause. There is nothing noble about being Switzerland. Yet, we also know that it is better to have people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Maxine Waters is a member of Congress and a highly influential one of that, she is not just some backbencher nor she is not just some random citizen spouting off about things. This is not about her First Amendment right to speak her mind, it is about Chauvin’s Sixth Amendment right to a trial by impartial jury. Chauvin may or may not be guilty regardless of what Waters said, but it is not her, or anyone else’s, place to say “convict or else.” Free countries do not have trial by mob.
So here we are, waiting for the verdict in one of the most public trials in American history and now Waters has gotten the verdict she wants, but it still might not matter. Waters inability to shut up for just five minutes may be the gift the defense needed. Worse, even after Judge Cahill told elected officials to knock it off, President Biden still said he was praying for the right verdict.
Of course, it is not just Waters and Biden that need to relearn the art of just shutting up. Donald Trump lost re-election because he was always running his mouth on Twitter or verbally insulting anyone and everyone who looked at him the wrong way. Some of Trump’s most public and crankiest supporters are now being sued for north of a billion dollars because rather than just shutting up, they wanted to advance their careers by “fighting” fraud. Not shutting up about election lies cost Republicans two Senate seats that gave Democrats the majority and of course led to January 6.
Georgia Democrats, meanwhile, by using cynical allegations of racist voter suppression as a GOTV tactic, cost their state millions of dollars with fear mongering and lies about the state’s election bill being Jim Crow 2.0. By supporting Democrats in this effort, big corporations are now discovering that the number of friends they have in Washington is ever shrinking.
Journalists are still more interested in being first than being right and politicians of both parties are more interested in performing for C-SPAN’s cameras during committee hearings than they are actually getting information out of and listening to the witness. The way to become famous and wrack up likes and retweets on political Twitter is to tweet the most outrageously provactitive and often wildly speculative nonsense you can think of. One could go on and on and on.
Maxine Waters’ remarks are what you get when everyone is required to comment on everything all the time. It’s what happens when people, especially politicians and other politicos, become convinced of their own importance above all else. It is okay to say “I don’t know” or “It’s not my place to comment on that,” but we have lost the ability to say that because speaking in grand tones is the easiest form of virtue signaling and in the age of performative politics, that is all that really matters.