During a time of political crisis a normal rule of politics is turned on its head.
That rule is, loud side wins.
Go back over the last 40 years and you will find that the side in every political argument which has agitated most loudly has generally had the upper hand. This was also true within the FDR period, the Progressive Era and the Gilded Age.
At the point of crisis, however, this is reversed. The Populists were the loudest side in the 1890s. Most people felt nothing but despair in the early 1930s. In 1969 Nixon gave a name to this -- the Silent Majority.
Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.
And so tonight -- to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans -- I ask for your support.
Nixon's math was right. The majority of Americans had not abandoned the Cold War, despite the enormous, and enormously-loud, protests against the War in Vietnam. Nixon's framing, taking ownership of the Cold War on behalf of the Republican Party, was the key to securing a Republican majority which has now endured a generation.
But suddenly, those rules don't apply. Polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans oppose the War in Iraq. Yet it's the Michelle Malkins and Hugh Hewitts who get the TV face time, and mainstream reporters, even this weekend, were claiming that Republicans repeating the frame "support the troops" against Democrats had the upper hand.
The same nonsense is taking place on immigration. Again, the right has the noise, but the left has the people. Americans want working immigrants to get a chance of staying by a margin of 2-1, but it's the "deport 'em all" side which has the big megaphone, and thus, according to many in the media, the momentum.
Isn't this just what reporters were saying 40 years ago? Coverage of the anti-war side then was intense, that of Republicans was faintly condescending. But voters not only chose the pro-war side 57-43 (with Wallace factored into the Republican column) in 1968, they maintained that balance for 40 years. Reporters were following the noise, and missed the story.
They are doing so again. Here is why:
- Many people in the new majority were in the old majority. They are tentative in their feelings.
- Activists from the old majority are lining up behind the new political order, but they are being pushed to the back of the bus.
- The "center" seen by people like Chuck Hagel does not exist. What
does exist is a concerted effort by people whose opinions are evolving to gain power by claiming to be "the margin" when in fact they are not. That's why Michael Bloomberg is George Wallace.
Real political change in America does not thump its chest. It comes on quietly, timidly, even tentatively. It also comes in very seldom. What you are witnessing in this campaign is a true political re-alignment, one that will shape our politics for the rest of my life, and probably for yours as well.
The Silent Majority is back. And this time it's Democratic.