A silent majority is a large amount of people who, as the term implies, constitute a majority or large amount of the population on a certain issue or issues, but have not openly expressed their opinions. This causes the opposing side to appear numerically larger, but the silent majority can often be seen on election days.
Origin of the term
The term "silent majority" first originated under Republican U.S. president Richard Nixon.
Nixon, who was elected president in 1968, promised an end to the Vietnam War. After he assumed office, Nixon decided against a quick withdrawl, as it would severely damage international trust and confidence in American leadership. However, liberal antiwar activists, who wanted a quick withdrawal regardless of its effects, were very unhappy and vocal in their unhappiness, staging at least one major protest in Washington D.C.
On November 3, 1969, Nixon gave a major speech to call for national unity and explain his plan for Vietnamization—to reduce U.S. troop presence in the country until either true peace could be achieved or until the South Vietnamese could defend themselves. At the end of his speech, Nixon called on the "great silent majority" to support his plan.
While the New Left, antiwar protestors, and hippies vocally expressed their leftist views, a silent majority of Americans who had not given in to their agenda. In fact, a Gallup poll released soon after Nixon's November 1969 speech showed 77 percent of Americans in favor of Nixon's policy, despite the antiwar protests.
The existence of the silent majority was further seen in the 1972 presidential election. Democrats nominated George McGovern, likely the most left-wing nominee in history at that point. Large numbers of Democrats abandoned the party and its nominee who was not in line with their traditional conservative values and voted for Nixon. Nixon was successfully able to point out McGovern's extreme views, and he won the election in one of the largest landslides in United States history. Even traditionally Democrat states, such as West Virginia, New York, and Texas, voted for Nixon (he won 49 states). As of 2016, the 1972 presidential election was the 4th largest landslide election in terms of the popular vote, and even larger than the 1964 presidential election.
Other examples of the silent majority in history
During the 1960s and 70s, a silent majority existed in the black community that opposed the undue sympathy of the liberal elites towards criminals and drug dealers. Rather than condemning "police brutality", blaming crime and drug use on racism, or supporting the welfare state as a solution, they supported tougher crime laws. Some even supported capital punishment for these crimes.
Another example of the silent majority is seen in Ronald Reagan's presidential election campaigns. Despite beliefs that he was too conservative to be elected president, Reagan easily defeated Democrat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. The American public was fed up with Carter's weak foreign policy, as well as liberal, big government economic policies, and even many Democrats voted for Reagan. In 1984, Democrats nominated liberal Walter Mondale, who even stated outright that he would raise taxes as president, who Americans rejected in a landslide—a repudiation for liberal policies.
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- Nixon calls on the “silent majority” - Nov. 3, 1969 - This Day in History. History.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- United States presidential election of 1972. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Broder, David S. (November 8, 1972). Nixon Wins Landslide Victory; Democrats Hold Senate, House. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Largest Landslide Victories In US Presidential Election History. worldatlas.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Grabar, Mary (May 5, 2016). The Forgotten History Of ‘The Black Silent Majority’. The Federalist. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- United States presidential election of 1980. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- United States presidential election of 1984. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Silent majority definition according to the Cambridge Dictionary