In November 1969 President Nixon addressed the American people from the Oval Office about his plans to end the Vietnam War. Most of the speech was dedicated to that topic but towards the end he uttered this one line that has defined the speech ever since.
“And so tonight to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support.”
The reaction to the speech was extremely positive as telegrams, phone calls and letters of support poured into the White House.
And just as today, the mainstream media displayed their disdain for these folks.
Here is what CBS’ Dan Rather said in his report the next day:
"The president spent much of today convincing himself and trying to convince others that his Vietnam policy speech is an overwhelming success."
He then went on to question if the strong public reaction in favor of the president’s speech was manufactured:
“How many of the letters and telegrams are spontaneous and how many are part of the carefully orchestrated Republican Party publicity campaign, it is too early to say."
Glad to see Dan Rather has been consistent all these years in delivering his biased opinions.
But despite all his tragic flaws that eventually led to his resignation, Nixon knew who this “silent majority” were. -- He knew them because he was one of them. He came from the same America they did. He understood their struggles because he had seen his own family struggle during the Great Depression.
He felt the sting of class prejudice from the East Coast elitists when, despite graduating third in his class from the prestigious Duke University Law School—an accomplishment that should have landed him a job with a top notch New York law firm—no job offers ever came his way.
And that “silent majority” believed him that night and propelled him to a landslide re-election victory in 1972.
After Watergate they deserted both Nixon and the Republican Party giving the Democrats a huge victory in the 1974 midterm elections and two years later Jimmy Carter edged Gerald Ford for the White House. But after four years of Carter’s weak leadership, high interest rates and unemployment, they returned to the Republican column in 1980-this time as Reagan Democrats.
And then in 1992 when the country again faced out of control spending and high taxes they rallied to Ross Perot with his charts and dire warnings of the fiscal train wreck we were headed for. In June of that year he was polling at 39% compared to George Bush the Elder’s 31% and Bill Clinton’s 25%. And while he may have been an imperfect messenger his message has proved prescient.
In 2006 and again in 2008 many of them turned on the Republicans who had forgotten that it was these very people who put them in power in 1994. They became more enamored with power than with fixing the nation’s problems.
And after the fiscal mismanagement of the Bush administration and profligate spending of the Republican Congress that has since brought our country to its knees, they had had enough and took a chance on “hope and change.”
As buyer’s remorse sets in they are realizing that the only “hope” they had was hoping they could keep their job and that “change” was what they would have left after Obama’s huge government spending plans were in place.
They have now revolted and in a big way.
Yes, I am talking about the “Tea Party” folks. But there are others. Not all of the forgotten Americans attend rallies and burn up cyber-space with their anger.
But for everyone who goes to a rally or comments on an article or blog on the Internet there are many who feel the same way. Polling data bears this out.
The continued assault on Sarah Palin is but one part of it. While many of these forgotten Americans might not vote for Sarah Palin, like Ross Perot before her, she is strikes a chord with them.
Because like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan before her, she knows them—she is one of them.
Tonight, President Obama will speak to the American people from West Point about the way forward in Afghanistan. He is in the exact same position that Nixon was in November 1969. Like Nixon, he has been president for a year and he is going to try to rally the American people to support his new strategy for an increasingly unpopular war—one that he himself has called a “war of necessity.”
And these forgotten Americans that his supporters dismiss as “right-wingers” and “paranoid tea baggers” are the very people he will need to convince. -- It’s their kids who are doing most of the fighting and dying in this war.
I think he’s going to have a hard time doing so because he does not understand them. His life is as far removed from theirs as Sarah Palin’s is close to theirs.
He proved he doesn’t understand them when during the 2008 campaign he told a crowd of wine and cheese Democrats in San Francisco that they were “bitter” and “cling to their guns and religion”. While his audience nodded their heads in agreement, the “bitter” small town Americans seethed.
The political force this new, frequently loud, “silent majority” has unleashed will determine this nation’s future in 2010 and 2012. It should not be underestimated.
Because just as the British dismissed the patriots at Lexington and Concord in 1775 as “rude rabble,” the Obama Democrats and elitist mainstream media dismiss these patriots at their peril.
Patrick Dorinson is a radio talk show host and commentator who goes by the name"The Cowboy Libertarian." He can be heard on a radio program with the same name Saturdays, from 5-6 p.m. PT on Clear Channel's KFBK radio in Sacramento, California.