The “Silent Majority” sobriquet came into wide use in 1969. Nixon’s speech in November of that year called out to the “great silent majority of my fellow Americans…”
He, Nixon, was referring to that wide swath of Americans for the Vietnam war and against the counterculture at the time. The idea was that these were people with beliefs that were overshadowed or out-amplified by protesters, and the news coverage they generated. The so-called Silent Majority, it was believed, was not involved in the public discourse.
We have, today, a situation where – IMHO – a great majority of Americans agree on what is right, and what is wrong, and yet is being out-shouted by louder groups garnering out-sized media share-of-voice.
The difference is that, this time, the louder forces are, politically, on the far right, and the Silent Majority is more moderate.
The New Silent Majority, I believe, has a heart and real American values. This is a group willing to listen to another’s point of view, that doesn’t see life as a zero-sum game (for me to “win” you must “lose”).
Here is what the New Silent Majority says on some key issues of the day:
- The Economy: we need jobs. Our kids need jobs. We want to work. Why are we not focused on job creation? What is the purpose of sequestration, at this painful time?
- Healthcare Reform: We need affordable healthcare coverage. Now. Our kids are sick and need medical care and coverage is costing me $1,500 a month. My teeth hurt and I haven’t been to a dentist in 15 years.
- Congress: Get your heads screwed on straight and start moving forward on…anything! And if I turn on the TV next Sunday and see Lindsey Graham on a talk show one more time, my head’s going to explode. Get into a back room, lock the door and don’t come out until something gets done.
- The Military: Our men and women are the bravest, toughest group anywhere on the planet, and they’re exhausted. We need to reboot our thinking. We’re not the world’s police anymore.
- Medicare: Here’s a program that works fine. All my older relatives are on Medicare. Wish I had it.
- Social Security: I paid into Social Security my entire working life and now they want to move the goal posts on me? Social Security is not a handout. I paid for it.
- Education: Our children need the best education possible to compete. Why are school budgets being cut?
- Social Issues: Gay rights? Abortion? That’s all private family business, not fair game for legislation.
- Immigration Reform: See my thoughts on Congress, above. Let’s get moving. My forefathers didn’t exactly come over on the Mayflower. Why are we stalling this out yet again?
The sad truth is that the “us-versus-them” binary thinking of the hard Right is a product of mass communication, which gives giant media megaphones to every pipsqueak. Real New Yorkers, I urge you to travel around the country. You’ll be amazed. Most folks – the New Silent Majority – are friendly, fair-minded and hospitable. We all bleed red blood and most people I know are quick to help their neighbors in time of need. But the shrill magpies that pass for journalists prefer to keep the heat up, the battle sides drawn.
No doubt, there are those who agree with the magpies and remain steadfast in their intransigence.
Trust me on this, however: there is a New Silent Majority out there. It is gathering power, like a tropical storm passing warm waters, picking up energy. It is getting ready to break the logjam that prevents our country from moving forward, as it should – and as it has in the past.
Think: in our current state of stasis, could you imagine an Interstate highway system being built? Could you imagine a space program, or a power grid, or anything that required bold vision, clarity, determination?
The New Silent Majority is out there, lurking. It’s been quiet for a long time. My question to today’s leaders: are you willing to bet it will remain quiet come 2014?