In mid-September aboard the battleship USS Iowa, now in a California museum, Donald Trump declared "the silent majority – believe me – is back." Adding a little reality and helping himself with his usual speed and flexibility he said, "I don't think we have to call it a silent majority anymore… they're not silent."
The expression "silent majority" was used in 1800s to refer to the dead. It was revived by President Nixon in a televised speech in November 1969 as a counter to the growth of the anti-war movement. Nixon asked for support from "the great silent majority of my fellow Americans," and following the speech his approval ratings went up from 52 to 68 percent.
Most of us know that majority opinion doesn't always reflect wisdom. Nixon's plan for the war didn't work out as expected. (The Communists won as they had against the French, and Vietnam today is an ally of the US in the Southeast Asia region.) The majorities that elected Obama president are not seen by Trump supporters as having been wise. Yet in mid-December we see Trump supporters bragging about being a majority, with signs that read: "THE SILENT MAJORITY STANDS WITHE TRUMP."
Proclaiming themselves a silent majority is not an argument. It's a demonstration of simple-mindedness. For Trump, whose campaign made the signs, it's an attempt at bandwagon propaganda. it's politics as usual rather than authenticity. It'sTrump's lack of modesty – perhaps harmless in this instance. (But modesty is needed for good judgment when facing important issues).
Trump does not have majority support among Republicans. A poll described in the Washington Post on December 18 has 10 percent of those identifying themselves as Democrats as supporting Trump, and it has a match-up between Hillary and Trump with Hillary at 53 percent and Trump at 40 percent.
The question is, would Trump be able to improve those numbers before November. Those opposed to him give him talking ammunition by distorting his position as, for example, Bernie Sanders did during the Democratic debate (on 19 Dec), claiming that Trump said that "all of the Mexicans, they're criminals and rapists." Trump never said "all Mexicans" anything. Whether Trump's propaganda about being the majority becomes a reality might depend on the abilities of his opposition to avoid hyperbole of their own. Today on ABC's This Week, Trump cut up George Stephanopoulos on the subject of Putin, Trump taking advantage of opportunities to make clarifications, seem reasonable and to sound tough.
And between now and November, Trump followers proclaiming themselves a member of the "silent majority" will not be a part of any televised clash of opinions.
Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.