Lesson from Nixon: Heed the Great Silent Majority

By Danny Zeng | November 27th, 2012

Republicans have debated for weeks now after the election – and indeed for the last two election cycles – as to the direction of the Party. The internal strife between the so-called conservative ideologues (often people with distorted understanding of conservatism) and the moderates (or disparagingly known as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only) is threatening the thin coalition that the Party currently holds in the electorate. Social conservatives almost succeeded in nominating Rick Santorum during the nomination process (In fact, The Weekly Standard reports yesterday that Santorum has his eyes on 2016). A large swath of the Party loyalists and frankly the media have discredited and dismissed the libertarian-based Ron Paul movement in this election. The collective exasperation on the day after the election for some vocal conservatives: well, we should have elected a more conservative candidate.

However, if history were of any guide, I would urge the Party to reconsider its race-to-the-bottom inclination to out-of-touch extremism. The better strategy is to do what Nixon so ingeniously did in 1969, in invoking the “great silent majority.” In present terms, this would include those hard-working middle-class, working-class Americans who prefer to watch football on weekends with cold beer or venture into the outdoors, those who attend dinner parties during weekdays to catch up with friends on the latest gossip, those college graduates who can no longer find jobs that match their skills, and those young parents who help their children with homework and take them to sports and music practices after school  You get the drift. In short, those average Americans who do not have grand theories about politics or ideology but indeed who are simply trying to work, raise a family, attend community functions  and socialize with friends in dwindling leisure hours. Most Americans are not political ideologues; they have a life in the private sphere. As conservatives, we should respect that. Out of all people, we should be most inclined to understand that people would rather be more active in their private and local communities than the behemoth that is the federal government. Recognizing this fact means that conservatives, too, need to detach ourselves from political hubris and not so readily claim the mantle of speaking for all Americans in the public sphere.

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