banner
left-barhomeaboutpast-issuesarchiveright-bar

Why the Silent Majority is a Trojan Horse in Western and Other Democracies

Rana Bose

In 1968, Richard Nixon made an extraordinary contribution to American electoral sociology. He talked about the Silent Majority-a quiet, disengaged, firmly convinced and aligned segment of the population that was committed to a “law and order” frame of mind, that believed in values that combined an entire gamut of Americanisms from “settling the West” to being an exceptionalist military power in support of the “free world”. From going to church regularly and upholding a god-fearing, pro-family, Left-hating perspective, to leading the world around its economic and political interests by any means necessary and without any validation from any international body.  He talked about a “silent center” in the American electorate. Not heard of, not vociferous, not argumentative but eventually they would go to vote and show that deeply held beliefs still count. He felt that their views were not being considered and they can turn the tables, albeit silently, to the surprise of pollsters and media pundits. He asked for their support in winning the war in Vietnam in opposition to the unruly rebellion of the sixties. May ’68, the free speech movement, the Woodstock nation meant very little to them or to Nixon’s political platform. He was actually asking for a “Quiet Center” to register its opposition to the more vociferous, libertarian, often revolutionary, anti-war movement that was sweeping America.  That center was actually a real middle class, mainly suburbanite or urban or rural lower middle, even poor classes, who were “law and order” people—community oriented and not really interested in world politics, super power rivalry (except as a hangover from the McCarthy years which allowed for a certain silent and phobic comfort zone about "Communist espionage, Jewish power brokers and other unreliable aliens" as scapegoats for America’s loss of control of its empire.)  The cold war was really on the front burner. Sizzling. The Silent Majority was what Nixon was banking on, when he talked about his secret weapon to end the war in Vietnam. A lot of people thought he was going to drop a mini Atom Bomb on Hanoi. He was really talking about “Vietnamization”. And he expected the Silent Majority to come out in support of such a plan. It was  a grand plan to allow "niggers to kill niggers" and withdraw major troop deployment on the ground and instead assist with special forces and air power. Exactly what Mr. Cool-- Barack Obama-- honed further into a drone-based strategy of assaulting any nation that dared to stand up against the Empire. 

What exactly is the Silent Majority?

Typically, the Silent Majority is a real phenomenon even today. In the West, there is that large population that basically remains racially and ethnically committed to a Settler Colonial view of the world—and they combine it with the protestant work ethic, a catholic sense of sin and salvation, a firm belief in the self-made man, patriarchal value systems, a commitment to a market economy (it is automatically seen as a fair system, never mind the law breakers and the corrupt officials. It may occasionally require some controls, some regulation, but in the end, is regarded as the ultimate symbol of "freeness.")  And finally, the “Silent Majority” is tired of feeling guilty about the massacres and genocidal removal of Native populations. “We must move on!” they say. We have established a superior way of life and that should be acknowledged as more civilized.

The Silent Majority are people who do not engage in direct involvement in political activity, in between elections. They do not also study election manifestos of various organizations and compare their various offerings and promises. They don’t like spending. They like “austerity.” They are trained to hate government. They like private enterprise, naturally. They don’t know why! They just don’t know! It is almost a gut reaction! They go about their lives, running businesses, farms, jobs, living very often in the hinterlands, away from the frenzy of urban centers and going to church/temple/synagogue or mosque as a social responsibility, apart from religious engagement. They despise the chaos that urban populations, urban culture, controversies surrounding the influx of new immigrants, refugees, bring about. It is disorienting and worrisome when alien cultures and religions start appearing in their midst. They maybe well-to-do. They maybe poor. But there is an overbearing cultural hegemony that they feel obliged to support. There is a restrictive status quo that they see as offering a comfort zone, in the midst of an approaching chaos caused by “diversity.” If they see drugs and fentanyl deaths in their community, they see it as a “told you so “moment about reasserting the country’s moral code.

The most significant thing about the “Silent Majority” is that they are mostly silent. Not politically active or affiliated and if they occasionally become loud, they join the ranks of hecklers and frustrated town mayors, who play to the local bleachers with temporary affiliations and nearly hysteric pronouncements. Once elections are over and they have voted to their heart’s content, they settle back to their “hinterland” existence. And nobody bothers to visit them or hold rallies in their towns about the grand “urban” values that they need to know about, until the next elections.

There is however one issue that easily mobilizes them. And they are wedge issues. YES, WEDGE ISSUES. Wedge issues are transplanted, psychosis-inducing debates that invariably get wedged in between discussions on minimum wages, bargaining rights, environmental issues, child care subsidies, police brutality, corruption, education subsidies, housing subsidies and the crass notion that hard work is all you need to succeed etc. Suddenly, we are discussing how a woman or a Jew or a Sikh must dress when they are in a responsible position of authority. Suddenly, we are discussing cultural values as primordial, as opposed to egalitarianism and human rights.  Suddenly, "secular" concepts are touted as fundamental to an election campaign, as was deftly used in various European nations and in Quebec, Canada. Suddenly the influx of refugees and immigration quotas become more important than the wars that caused people to flee in the first place.  So, two weeks before the ballot boxes close, we have drawn a line in the sand. Even in a self-defined hipster/organic haven of a Montreal neighborhood, young white women are caught on camera defacing the poll pictures of a hijab-ed candidate from the Left. Suddenly, men’s’ rights --nothing could be as revolting and sickening-- given that women had no voting rights in Quebec till 1940, perks up a lot of interest.   And then, there is this whole phenomenon of white academics and intellectuals who have opportunistically found it so convenient to put identity enraptured political correctness through a meat grinder. 

With the change in the economy today (not repeating the so-called gig economy penchant for continued dis-empowering of the right to work, permanency, to survive and to live with basic necessities including, health, pension, minimum savings  and housing)  and the advent of an avaricious, groping social media that has even turned on itself, and documented inequality of phenomenal proportions-- a decrease in permanent jobs and wage earners—we still have  a substantial growth in a mid-section of the population --once known as the petit-bourgeois --- that have become firm believers and flag bearers of an extreme center---- quiet and yet like vipers—a  Trojan horse that has wheeled itself in at night and will turn the tables at the ballot box.

In most elections in the West today, participation is dismal. And there are many reasons for that. The outcome is typically like this—the right are leading, the left are trailing and cannot put together a coalition of the like-minded, which could take the popular vote in their favour—and then there are the “undecideds”-the swing electorate. It is often a 30 : 25: 45 break up of extreme Right to vaguely  Left to the Undecided, who will hide behind the hijabed booth and cast their silent vote in favour of “tradition.” And in Trump’s supporters, some 65 million, including 50% who are women, white and mostly working class, in Modi’s India, where a burgeoning 200 milion  middle class (some say 400 and some say only 50 million) , whose new found commodity fetishism has no bounds and in Brazil, in Italy  and in some former East European states where the capitalist frenzy is accompanied by dark and dreary fascist revivals-- it is the Silent Extreme Center that has become the deciding factor. 

So, as we whine, crib and go into salivating spasms—we must understand that it is not the Proud Boys (racist neo-Nazis) who are the big problem. It is the perennial constituency that stays quiet and votes silently that turns the tables. So, if you don’t have a program to de-hegemonize the cultural convictions of this large population, if you have not made any headway in bringing up discussions in their midst, in asserting and revisiting the impact of past historical practices (like being enthralled with bullet trains running fast and on time, instead of providing public transportation for cheap and cutting down emissions) you have looked at the Trojan horse in the face and done nothing about it. Now this is in the West. 

In the so-called "East," the Trojan Horse is very much present, as well. It is a combination of the urban middle class and the rural agriculture based community, which is all severely caste-divided. When they see the rampant ineptitude and corruption of the Congress, they try out the BJP. The BJP by itself did not tout its Hindutva edge when they won last time. They had their Sangh Parivar carry out the neo-Nazi lynchings. Once they came to power, they showed their real fangs. There is no need to document that here. India's leading scientists, historians, intellectuals and artists have documented that in large numbers. However, in the 2020 elections, the urban middle class of India, have their back to the wall. NONE of the welfare-society based benefits that were to come to India's masses, especially in the rural areas, happened. All the promises of employment, efficiency and money in the bank and retrieving black money came to a big zero! The middle classes say that corruption was technologically bypassed by adhar-card and iris scanning. But, the rural population, really do not care about the paltry sums of money deposited in their bank accounts. So, this time watch out for the other Trojan Horse, the rural Silent majority, to register its displeasure. And as in the West, the Left have no understanding or program to de-hegemonize the belief systems of the rural poor. 

Frontier
May 1, 2019


Rana Bose rana@ranaboseassociates.com

Your Comment if any