National Journal: ‘Trumpism’ Appeals to Silent Majority of Alienated Blue-Collar Whites

From Ronald Brownstein writing at National Journal:

Trump’s future in the GOP presidential race is uncertain after his churlish attacks on Senator John McCain of Arizona. But whatever happens to Trump, the strong positive response from many rank-and-file Republicans to his attacks on immigrants and free trade, and to his contempt for party leaders, has demonstrated the depth of alienation among much of the GOP base—particularly, blue-collar and older whites. With or without Trump, the party must still navigate the appeal of “Trump-ism” to disaffected voters who feel the country as they know it “is slipping away fast,” notes Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.

It’s no coincidence the “silent majority” language is resurfacing amid a wave of cultural and demographic change—from the Supreme Court decision authorizing gay marriage to the Census Bureau finding that most kids under 5 in America are not white. The “silent majority” idea first entered the political dialogue during the tumultuous social, racial, and political tensions of the late 1960s. In his winning 1968 campaign, Richard Nixon floated several formulations—”the silent center,” “quiet Americans,” “forgotten Americans”—before settling on the “silent majority” in a November 1969 speech urging support for the Vietnam War. (That history is according to the late William Safire, who should know: Before he became our premier political lexicographer, he served as a Nixon speechwriter.)

Whatever phrase Nixon used, the concept always targeted the same group of whites arrayed from the working class through the middle class. At a time of tense race relations, ardent antiwar protests, and an accelerating sexual revolution, Nixon said he was speaking for “the millions of people in the middle of the American political spectrum who do not demonstrate, who do not picket or protest loudly.” In their influential 1970 book, The Real Majority, Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg more succinctly described the “silent” constituency as “unyoung, unpoor, and unblack.”

Read the rest of the story at National Journal.


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