Saturday, 3 November 2018

silent majority

Echoing the 1919 turn of phrase employed by Warren G Harding during his campaign in the aftermath of World War I that was meant as a euphemism to distinguish the quick from the dead (with those who’ve passed then and now far outnumbering the living and by extension more moral weight like all future generations), Richard Milhous Nixon popularised the appeal to the quiet in a speech on this day in 1969:
“And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.” Assuming that those who were not actively protesting Nixon’s policies, joining the counter-culture and rallying against the Vietnam War were in fact an overshadowed demographic and gave Nixon their tacit approval. Casting this idealised demographic against a “vocal minority” was a strategy of divide-and-conquer and the “disenfranchised” were not the precarious, forgotten or downtrodden but rather the comfortable who aspired for more and were menaced by those that had less. It was effective.  This demographic of Middle America (though now more international in its application) has gone through many incarnations since—from the Angry White Male to the Soccer Mom, Loggers, Coal Miners and many other labels before returning to its original form. If one does not speak up, it becomes much easier for others to speak for you.