It’s beginning to look a lot like 1972.
Or maybe it’s looking more like 1976, or ’71, or ’79.
While seemingly each passing year of the 70’s entailed its own unique challenges and dilemmas for the United States, the decade was certainly characterized by, among other things, our nation’s own cultural chaos and internal upheaval. And this chaos and upheaval – along with the American electorate’s response to it – can inform our understanding of what’s happening to our country today.
The cultural chaos at the start of that decade was tremendous. There was the so-called “sexual revolution,” that challenged traditional Judeo-Christian sexual norms. There was the seemingly ever- expanding “hippie” culture that fostered a rebellion among America’s youth, against the society’s various authority structures. And in the midst of all this emerged the first generation of American youth that thought it was something less than honorable to fight on behalf of the nation, leading to the Viet Nam war protests, and the outright refusal to respond to military draft notifications.
And in the midst of all this - along with a stagnating economy and a highly uncertain battle against the communist expansion of the Soviet Union – President Richard Nixon delivered a very important address to the American people, roughly one year into his presidency. In this speech, delivered on November 3, 1969, Nixon made reference to a so-called “silent majority” of Americans – people who supposedly agreed with him on issues of culture, “law and order,” defending national interests, and the general goodness of America– even though these people’s views may have been largely dismissed or even ignored by American academia, media, and elites.
In using this strategic “silent majority” phrase, Nixon sought to publicly awaken what he sensed was a tremendous number of Americans who loved their country and worked hard to sustain it, yet who often did not participate in public policy debates. Back then, Americans of this sort didn’t have much of a voice in the media, and (unlike the anti-American, anti-war “protesters”) did not stage public “demonstrations” on behalf of causes that they believed-in.
Of course, some Americans were gravely offended by President Nixon’s remarks. If there was a “silent majority” of Americans who agreed with him, then, by implication, there was a minority of Americans who disagreed with the President. And Nixon, so his detractors claimed, was being insensitive to the “minority” and trying to muzzle them.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.