Friday, June 27, 2008

Remembering the Silent Majority

Concerning my previous blog post: Why Most Politics Is Radical

I had been thinking for the last several months about Nixon's "Silent Majority" [1] [2].

The silent majority is usually described as the "mostly conservative" bulk of people who are not easily swayed by politics. Some discussions have suggested that this majority is simply gone, that it doesn't exist. However, I take it that - even while Nixon called them a "mostly conservative" group in his campaigning, I don't think this was accurate in the political sense of the word. "Mostly conservative", I believe, means "leave me alone, and don't try to change too much."

I know the silent majority is alive and well. We are not in an era of extremes - not as extreme as the late 60s represented. That was Nixon's time - and the call for "normal" was powerful and uniting then. I don't know if that call can be made again easily.

It's not easy for politics to call for common sense, and simplicity. Worse yet that the last time a politician succeeded in doing so, we got Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

[1] Wikipedia: Silent Majority
[2] Lassiter, M.D.: The Silent Majority


  1. Vahl here.

    I recently watched most of a documentary about Nixon, starting from the Kennedy debates and going to his death in the 1990's.

    I was surprised to learn that Nixon coined that phrase ... or that he had any kind of creative side, for that matter.

    At any rate, I agree that the silent majority is alive and well. I would also argue, historically speaking, that the silent majority (as you define it), tends to be ignored.

    I suspect there has never truly been an era of extremes. The people in charge represent extremes, not the people.

    Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" attempts to tell the stories of working-class people and their struggles to gain civil rights. However, that book has no choice but to focus on extreme events and tell the story from the perspective of the man on the street.

  2. I also suspect that the political science majors and MBA holders we have running the country are trained to act the way they act.

    In other words, having the courage to stand up and say, "Let's keep the status quo, with some minor adjustments" is either not taught or dismissed as disastrous politics.

    Heck, the Republican party's rejection of economic conservatives over the past six years is indicative of this. Smaller government is not popular with special interest groups at the State and Federal levels. And let's not forget Buckley conservatives who were against going to war in Iraq the way we did.


    It feels like this current election cycle has become a war of attrition -- McCain is not popular among conservatives, Obama will have trouble getting older women who supported Hillary ... you have to wonder if both sides are praying for a low turnout, so that their die-hard supporters can carry the day at the polls.

  3. Vahl, ... What a sad, sad state of affairs if you are right about "hoping for a low turnout".

  4. Damian here...based on my conversations with some die-hard 40+ aged Republicans, there seems to be more of a respect for Nixon, and they project their ideal image of Nixon onto McCain.

    I agree that both parties want a low-turnout.
    "Let's keep the status quo, with some minor adjustments"--> there's no room for the giant EGOS professors and politicians have! :-)