The so-called 'silent majority' is a Nixonian invention, as far as I know, coined in what's now called his 'Great Silent Majority' speech. In the middle of the near-constant Vietnam demonstrations of the time, Nixon revealed his Vietnam withdrawal plan, a plan that had no timetable by design and (if memory serves) never went into effect until a few years later.

Nixon's position was a bit precarious. He was a dyed-in-blood Cold Warrior, and his support leaned towards the hawkish side, so suggesting (however lightly) that maybe kneeling to the Commies and pulling out of Vietnam was the correct answer wouldn't really fly. People might interpret that as Nixon giving in to the hippie demonstrators. However, he ran and was elected on a platform of prudent peace in Vietnam. So, what was his tactic?

Lightly decry the protesters as a 'vocal minority' who were pushing too far, overrunning the 'will of the majority'. Nixon would follow the will of the majority, a silent majority, which he claimed was a policy of America first, peace a close second. Therefore, the 'withdrawal' which didn't really happen until later. That, coupled with other rhetoric in the speech, let him appear to be all things to all people - a dove to the doves, a hawk caught in a bad situation to other hawks. After all, he was following the Golden Democratic Rule - follow the majority's opinion. Or at least claim you're following the majority's opinion.

And thus the term 'silent majority' was born - the people (usually Midwesterners, but any suburbanite would do) who never spoke up, never caused trouble, but whose opinions counted just as much as those loudmouth hippies on the beaches. The term started popping up all over the place, especially on the Editorial page of your local fishwrap, used whenever someone wanted to claim that he or she embodied 'the will of the people, the silent majority', who, being silent, would never speak up to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to that assertion. I seem to recall both Zack de la Rocha and David Duke using the term.

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