Silent majority  

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"And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support."

Richard Nixon, November 3, 1969

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Silent Majority" is a term used by the U.S. President Richard Nixon in a 1969 speech. It refers to a hypothetical large number of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. When President Nixon used it for the first time, it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not engage in riots and attack police officers, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not enthusiastically participate in public discourse or the media. Nixon along with many others saw this group as being overshadowed by the more vocal minority.

This majority referred mainly to the older generation (those World War II veterans in all parts of the United States) but it also described many young people in the Midwest, West and in the South, many of whom did eventually serve in Vietnam. The Silent Majority was mostly populated with the blue collar people who allegedly didn't have the ability or the time to take an active part in politics other than to vote. They did, in some cases, support the conservative policies of many politicians. Others were not particularly conservative politically, but resented what they saw as disrespect for American institutions.

The silent majority theme has been a contentious issue amongst journalists since Nixon used the phrase. Some thought Nixon used it as part of Southern Strategy; others claim it was Nixon's way of dismissing the obvious protests going on around the country, and Nixon's attempt to get other Americans not to listen to the protests. Whatever the rationale, Nixon won a landslide victory in 1972, taking 49 of 50 states, vindicating his "silent majority."

Since Nixon, many conservatives have pointed to the silent majority as a force still ignored by the media, who, in the eyes of conservatives, focus generally on sensational activities of both parties to boost the media's own viewer ratings. The silent majority has been used to explain a number of Republican victories in areas where no chance was given to conservative politicians by the media.

Still other examples of the silent majority are: the extreme popularity of Ronald Reagan during his presidency and beyond, despite supposed attacks by the media on his tenure; the Republican Revolution in the 1994 elections; and the victories of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, both Republicans, in the New York City Mayoral races of the 1990s and 2000s.

The idiom was first recorded in 1874.

The Greek poet Homer used the phrase "the silent majority" as a reference to the dead.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Silent majority" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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