Along with “Make America Great Again,” one of the favorite slogans recycled ad nauseam by followers of the Very Stable Genius is that the “Silent Majority” supports him. Like the MAGA slogan itself, which was cribbed from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, the phrase is plagiarized, in this case from a speech Richard Nixon gave as president in 1969. In historical context, it was a stroke of political genius, like many of Nixon’s moves, because it captured a feeling among many Americans that the antiwar and civil rights movements had gone too far and were destroying the country, while their opponents were getting little attention. Nixon wanted the votes of everyone who felt that way, and he must have come amazingly close to capturing them all, given the size of his landslide reelection victory three years later.
In our time, the phrase is false in every measurable way. The VSG lost the popular vote by a margin of millions both times he ran, and his supporters certainly aren’t quiet about their feelings. But they believe themselves to be the majority, at least the rightful majority of right-thinking Americans, and to have suffered in silence while ill-defined “elites” and welfare and immigrant freeloaders profited at their expense. And in politics, as Democrats and liberals of the we-believe-in-science variety keep learning to their chagrin, you win on emotions, whether or not they have any bearing on reality. The trick they have not learned is that of the emotional appeal that is based on truth, not on a farrago of lies with a few powerful but distorted truths mixed in, the latter a tactic the VSG knows how to pull off to perfection.
Not that the VSG’s opponents and mainstream media are free of all misconceptions themselves. Perhaps the most significant such false beliefs concern the true identity of the most extreme and dangerous VSG supporters. To take an important example, the Capitol putschists of January 6, 2021 are not rural trailer dwellers. They are largely urban residents, and many are the owners of small or medium-sized businesses. I can do no better than to recommend a close study by University of Chicago researchers of those prosecuted for invading the Capitol, and the estimated 21 million Americans who believe the falsehood that the election was stolen from the VSG, and that violence against the government is justified to right this supposed wrong. Eight million of these people own guns, the researchers found, and 4 million have prior military experience. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. Comparisons with the “lower middle class” Germans who were the backbone of Nazi Party support are very interesting, but we are talking about two very different countries with dissimilar cultures at very different moments in history. In both cases, however, it’s fair to say that the fascists are not the majority of “the people,” nor are they a revolt by “the wretched of the earth” or “peasants with pitchforks.” They can and must be stopped, but we must know whom we are struggling with.