The Vocal Minority That Was The Silent Majority
The silent majority is an unspecified majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. The term was popularized by U.S. President Richard Nixon in a November 3, 1969, speech in which he said, “And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.” In this usage it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not participate in public discourse. Nixon along with many others saw this group of Middle Americans as being overshadowed in the media by the more vocal minority.
The Silent Majority
The idea of the “silent majority” has existed for decades and the data available shows no evidence of its existence. Perhaps Nixon’s silent majority, assumed to be conservative, is simply not a majority in America.
As citizens, we vote, contribute both time and money to causes we agree with, and when possible try to educate or influence our friends and colleagues on issues we are both knowledgeable and passionate about. This does not change the fact that the 30 percent each on the left and right fight for what they believe where they can. The middle 40 percent is generally ambivalent unless it directly affects them in ways they can see. No side has enough people to get their way in all cases especially considering sides disagree even among themselves on many issues. We live in a plurality. Where is the room for a silent majority?
For instance, arguments regarding limited government have been going on since the country was founded, but the discussion has continuously shifted in nuanced ways that don’t allow either side a complete victory. Some people want limited government at all levels, others only want it at the federal level believing that state governments are better at using government power and are easier to control. Still, others believe the federal government is better able to handle many issues and easier to control than state governments. There are debates on all levels about how the power each level of government has should be used. Don’t believe me? Look at the Republican debates and how different each candidate is.
Until conservatives win landslides in presidential years it does seem likely the “silent majority” (even more popularized by Reagan) will have trouble getting all their issues into law. That’s the way the system works. I suspect in 10 years, Republicans will have shifted their platform to enable them to get elected as younger generations come of age and continue to vote along more socially liberal lines than the older portions of the party.