Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


The Silent Majority Had Better Speak Up

By Rob Tenery, MD on February 1, 2016

President Richard Nixon popularized the term the silent majority in a speech he delivered in 1969 to the American people asking for support of those who were not participating in the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Nixon’s silent majority was comprised mainly of the older generation who still had close links to the sacrifices of World War II, many of the younger generation who would or had served in Vietnam, white blue-collar workers and the middle ‘stratum of society’.

Today, in many ways, the nation is more divided than during Nixon’s tenure. More important, the vocal minority is more prevalent than ever before. Except for Fox News, liberal television dominates the visual news media. Liberal leaning newspapers are more numerous and influential than the conservative printed press. Only conservative talk radio dominates the airways. Just as important, are the liberal professors who teach their bias in the majority of our colleges and universities. Then there is the Hollywood influence of liberalism that permeates all levels of the entertainment industry. With all these different interests, it would be logical to think that liberalism is the most dominant position in this country. In fact, it’s just the opposite and it’s not even close!

In a Gallup poll released from data collected in 2011, 40% of Americans claim to lean to the conservative point-of-view. While only 21% align with the liberals. The remaining 30% (moderate) align themselves more with the issues than a particular party platform.  This category of individuals has gradually decreased from 43% in 1992 as this country has become more polarized. Most Republicans are conservative--- 72% conservative, 23% moderate and 4% liberal. While most Democrats considered themselves moderate in 2002, the trend is toward more liberalism--- 38% moderate, 40% liberal and 20% conservative.

The Gallup poll also found that independents comprise a larger segment of the population than either political party. Most consider themselves moderate, while further breaking down to leaning conservative 35% and liberal 20%. Younger Americans more generally label themselves more as moderate at 40%, and the others equally divided between conservative and liberal at 28%. The older population is significantly more conservative at 40%, 33% moderate and 21% liberal.

Election results are frequently dependent on voter turnout, and turnouts are often measured by voter investment in the issues. In a broad sense, the Democratic Party has and continues to be more successful, than just those who are liberal in their thinking, because they are able pick up much of the moderate vote by adopting the important social issues of divergent special interest groups--- abortion, gay marriage, women’s rights and, generally, are more lenient on immigration policies. The Republican Party concentrates on the more encompassing issues--- national debt, balancing the budget, long-term effects of unbridled immigration and foreign policy.

The reasons for this change in priorities are complex. With the electorate growing faster in the younger population, they have less interest in foreign policy decisions. The reminders of saving for the future that came out of the Great Depression are history. Leaving the problems of debt limits and entitlement obligations to others, the younger voters tend to be more concerned about issues that affect them directly and immediately. Since the draft was abolished, in favor of an all volunteer military, the awareness of community obligation as seen in this country’s involvement in World War II, have been replaced by the ‘me now’ thinking of the 1960s. The family unit is in total disarray in the black community and appears to be fading fast in the white population. So, loyalty to anything other than one’s self takes a backseat to the family or the community.

As good as it sounds to the electorate, the sweeping proposals of income equality, expanding or even maintaining the entitlement programs and shifting military funding into domestic enrichment are blind to meeting the needs that are essential for this country’s future. If the more vocal minority with the liberal mindset continues to hold sway for much longer, it really won’t matter what the silent majority wants. They will have lost their chance!





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