Trump is res­ur­rect­ing the ‘great silent ma­jor­ity’

Nixon’s phrase res­onates in a sim­i­lar era of tur­moil

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Monica Crow­ley

In late Oc­to­ber 1969, Richard Nixon took out one of his fa­mous yel­low le­gal pads to jot down some thoughts. The new pres­i­dent was faced with se­ri­ous global and do­mes­tic tur­moil. The Soviet Union had ini­ti­ated a nu­clear buildup, the Mid­dle East was aflame (some things never change), and the war in Viet­nam raged on. At home, the war drove hun­dreds of thou­sands of pro­test­ers into the streets, con­vuls­ing a na­tion al­ready seething from the as­sas­si­na­tions of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and a grow­ing coun­ter­cul­tural move­ment.

Mr. Nixon reached for a way to calm the roil­ing wa­ters and to buy time for his new poli­cies — de­tente with the Soviet Union, rap­proche­ment with China, a new ap­proach to pros­e­cut­ing the war — to be estab­lished and im­ple­mented.

He sat down in the mid­dle of the night and wrote what would be­come his most fa­mous phrase: “And so tonight — to you, the great silent ma­jor­ity of my fel­low Amer­i­cans — I ask for your sup­port.”

Those words be­came the cen­ter­piece of a crit­i­cally im­por­tant speech he gave on Nov. 3, 1969, in which he ap­pealed for the pub­lic’s pa­tience on Viet­nam. And he got it be­cause so many reg­u­lar, hard­work­ing, pa­tri­otic Amer­i­cans saw them­selves in his phrase. They saw a small but vo­cal left-wing, anti-war rab­ble seiz­ing head­lines, con­fronting po­lice, shut­ting down uni­ver­si­ties, caus­ing a break­down of re­spect for author­ity and so­cial or­der, while they — the peo­ple who made Amer­ica work ev­ery day — were over­looked, dis­missed, dis­re­spected along with the coun­try they loved

With that phrase, Mr. Nixon gave them at­ten­tion and re­spect, and they re­warded him with re-elec­tion and steady sup­port for his poli­cies.

Of the many smart moves Don­ald Trump has made dur­ing his cam­paign, one of the most im­pact­ful was his ap­pro­pri­a­tion of Mr. Nixon’s phrase. At a cam­paign rally last July in Phoenix, he said, “The silent ma­jor­ity is back, and we’re go­ing to take our coun­try back.”

Af­ter that, “the silent ma­jor­ity” ap­peared on Trump cam­paign plac­ards, waved by thou­sands at his ral­lies. (He has also suc­cess­fully ap­pro­pri­ated Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s 1980 slo­gan “Let’s Make Amer­ica Great Again.” Both phrases ap­peal to the count­less Amer­i­cans who feel their coun­try and its his­toric, unique great­ness have been lost to rad­i­cal­ism and other dis­eases of the patho­log­i­cal left.)

An open ques­tion is whether, af­ter decades of as­sault by the left, there is still a “great silent ma­jor­ity” left in Amer­ica. Or have the rad­i­cals suc­ceeded in turn­ing those who be­lieve in the found­ing prin­ci­ples of lim­ited gov­ern­ment, in­di­vid­ual free­dom and tra­di­tional val­ues into the mi­nor­ity?

The an­swer may be un­clear for now. But Mr. Trump is bank­ing on the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of the ma­jor­ity — while at the same time work­ing to re­con­sti­tute it for the 21st cen­tury.

Ever the com­mu­ni­ca­tions mas­ter, Mr. Trump speaks di­rectly to th­ese Amer­i­cans in ways to which they can re­late. De­spite his net worth in the bil­lions of dol­lars, he speaks like a guy from Queens, N.Y. — be­cause he’s a guy from Queens, N.Y. He is raw and au­then­tic. He is one of them. They know it — but more im­por­tantly, they feel it.

He also speaks to them about the is­sues that di­rectly af­fect their liveli­hoods: an in­ter­minably poor jobs out­look, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and bad trade deals. He tells them that he un­der­stands their plight. He tells them that if they stand with him, he will fix it and that he will not be­tray them. They be­lieve in him.

Mr. Nixon un­der­stood the need to of­fer them re­as­sur­ance and hope. So does Mr. Trump.

Even the up­heavals they faced look sim­i­lar. At a re­cent Trump rally in Al­bu­querque, N.M., an anti-Trump protest de­gen­er­ated into a riot when ag­i­ta­tors at­tacked the po­lice, in­jur­ing sev­eral of­fi­cers (no sur­prise given the left’s war on cops). Two groups had a hand in or­ga­niz­ing the protests — South­west Or­ga­niz­ing Project and Progress Now New Mex­ico. Some unions were in­volved as well.

This is the pro­fes­sional left whose aim is to sow chaos and vi­o­lence in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the tear­down of the ex­ist­ing or­der. They have been at this for decades and are quite good at it. One of the ring­leaders of the vi­o­lent anti-Trump protests in Chicago in March? Six­ties Marx­ist revo­lu­tion­ary and do­mes­tic ter­ror­ist Bill Ay­ers. The anti-Viet­nam protests, Oc­cupy Wall Street, Black Lives Mat­ter: It’s all the same or­ga­nized, well-fi­nanced left­ist rev­o­lu­tion, led by many of the same rad­i­cals.

By iden­ti­fy­ing the “great silent ma­jor­ity,” Mr. Nixon told good, de­cent, law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans that help was on the way, be­cause he was one of them.

In us­ing the same phrase, Mr. Trump is sig­nal­ing the same thing. It’s a pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ment. But more im­por­tantly, it’s a po­tent emo­tional sen­ti­ment, which both men have used to great ef­fect — be­cause they be­lieved it. And be­cause they be­lieved in the Amer­i­can peo­ple to whom it was di­rected.

The silent ma­jor­ity car­ried Mr. Nixon to elec­tion and re-elec­tion. I sus­pect that it is pre­pared to do the same for Mr. Trump. Monica Crow­ley is editor of on­line opin­ion at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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