Nixon's Silent Majority Was Not About Race - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Nixon’s Silent Majority Was Not About Race

It is amazing to behold. For the Left — even the Republican Left — everything is about race. Even when it isn’t. Even when one has to re-write history to make that history something it never was.

All too predictably, the New York Times — the paper that cannot control its obsession with race-card playing — recently ran this headline:

Republicans Fear Donald Trump Is Hardening Party’s Tone on Race

Really? And how exactly is this happening? Why, Donald Trump is using the term “Silent Majority” from the Nixon-era. And everybody knows that was racist, right? Here’s the Times version of this nonsense:

WASHINGTON — Republicans are growing increasingly concerned that Donald J. Trump’s inflammatory language is damaging the party, fearing that his remarks are hardening the tone of other candidates on racial issues in ways that could repel the voters they need to take back the White House.

Some party leaders worry that the favorable response Mr. Trump has received from the Republican electorate is luring other candidates to adopt or echo his remarks. It is a pattern, they say, that could tarnish the party’s image among minority voters.

“Any candidate that allows Trump to dictate the conversation about what they’re campaigning on is going to be harmed irreparably,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and the architect of Senator Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign in Kentucky last year. “And to the extent that there are mainstream candidates dragged into the musings of Trump on a day-to-day basis is really bad news for us.”

Aside from the Mitch McConnell strategist (one could ask how the Romney and McCain presidencies worked out, but hey, clearly the news that the “mainstream musings” of both didn’t get either into the White House has yet to reach McConnellville) the paper quotes GOP strategist Rick Wilson, famous for his Establishment enthusiasms, as saying of Trump: “When he first started saying ‘silent majority,’ I didn’t think he understood the historical antecedents, but now I believe they very much do.”

Those “historical antecedents” of the Trump term silent majority, Americans are being instructed, goes the word in this (and pieces elsewhere) was an old Richard Nixon term in the day that was all about race. The old dog whistle. Excuse me? Say what?

I hate to admit this, but, alas, I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1969. And in the day, protesting college kids — almost all of them white, to answer the racial charge — were out there with their long hair and protest signs continuing the war they had declared on President Lyndon Johnson with the new President Richard Nixon. And the subject was not race — it was Vietnam.

In October of 1969 there had been a massive demonstration in Washington to protest the war — as it was called in the day, the National Moratorium to End the War. Originally targeted to about three hundred college campuses — organized by two white guys named Sam Brown and David Hawk — the idea of the protest rapidly caught fire. Soon, with help from the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (or the “New Mobe” as it was ever so hip to say in the Leftist circles of the day), the protest was everywhere. In Boston, a crowd of 100,000 gathered to hear the left-wing Senator George McGovern of South Dakota hammer the war and Nixon. So successful were these demonstrations considered to be that another was planned for November 15 — a month later. In Washington, D.C. All signs were that this protest would be national and huge.

In the run-up to the November protests, President Nixon was asked his opinion. He replied: 

I have often said that there is really very little that we in Washington can do with regard to running the university and college campuses of this country. We have enough problems running the nation, the national problems. Now, I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. 

As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it, however under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.

Nixon was not one to sit idly by in moments like this. So on November 3, 1969 — twelve days before the November “Moratorium” — the President took to the television airwaves to update the nation on Vietnam. And not so coincidentally try and turn the political guns around on his youthful anti-war antagonists. Here’s the text of the speech, which was devoted 100% to Vietnam. There was zero reference to any topic even remotely associated with race. And the “silent majority” phrase — a personal contribution from Nixon himself as opposed to his speechwriters — came toward the end of this:

I recognize that some of my fellow citizens disagree with the plan for peace I have chosen. Honest and patriotic Americans have reached different conclusions as to how peace should be achieved.

In San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw demonstrators carrying signs reading: “Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home.”

Well, one of the strengths of our free society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to advocate that point of view. But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this Nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the Nation by mounting demonstrations in the street.

For almost 200 years, the policy of this Nation has been made under our Constitution by those leaders in the Congress and the White House elected by all of the people. If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this Nation has no future as a free society.

And now I would like to address a word, if I may, to the young people of this Nation who are particularly concerned, and I understand why they are concerned, about this war.

I respect your idealism.

I share your concern for peace.

I want peace as much as you do.

There are powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives, and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It is very little satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed the first week in office. There is nothing I want more than to see the day come when I do not have to write any of those letters.

– I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in Vietnam.

– But I want to end it in a way which will increase the chance that their younger brothers and their sons will not have to fight in some future Vietnam someplace in the world.

– And I want to end the war for another reason. I want to end it so that the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a better life for all people on this earth.

I have chosen a plan for peace. I believe it will succeed.

If it does succeed, what the critics say now won’t matter. If it does not succeed, anything I say then won’t matter.

I know it may not be fashionable to speak of patriotism or national destiny these days. But I feel it is appropriate to do so on this occasion.

… 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.

There is not a word about race in this speech. Not one. Why? Because the protesters were, as noted, overwhelmingly white, privileged college kids. They were opposed to the war in Vietnam — and it had zero to do with race. Say again, zero. 

How did it play out? November 15 arrived and, according to various estimates, anywhere between 250,000 to 500,000 anti-war protesters showed up in Washington to protest the war. The battle between the mostly white lefty college kids and Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” was on. By the following April it exploded again when Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia. The protests — which brought violence to Kent State in Ohio and Jackson State, a black college in Mississippi — shut down college campuses all over the country. And again, this was all related to Vietnam.

So the real question here is: why in the world would such a bizarre untruth as is portrayed in the Times story be told, printed, and presented as historical gospel?

In terms of the Left — the Times etc., etc. — this is what the Left is all about. An analysis of anything and everything from Donald Trump to the packaging of Rice Krispies or why the sun is yellow will summon forth “its all about race” stories.

But as the remarks from McConnell strategist Holmes and GOPer Wilson indicate — the Republican Establishment has been so battered by the Left when it comes to defending a colorblind America and the Party of Lincoln that they have in effect internalized the Left’s obsession with race and made it their own. These are the people for whom a civil rights stance is not taking a page out of Jack Kemp’s book or listening to today’s Ben Carson — much less Lincoln. Instead they choose to be a pale imitation of the Left on race, whining and worrying about conservatives who believe in a straight-up Martin Luther King-Lincoln version of a colorblind America that is true to the Declaration of Independence and the vow that all men are created equal.

Thankfully this pathetic and condescending GOP Establishment approach to racial issues isn’t working with the base of the GOP that is swarming to Donald Trump or Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina or Senator Ted Cruz. (Hello? Carson is black and Cruz a Latino.)

Or in other words? 

Just as the original Silent Majority wasn’t about race — neither is the Trump Silent Majority of today. To suggest otherwise is not only an atrocious rewriting of history — it is a smear on the millions of good people of all races who are determined to take their country back from those who, among many other things, will and do use every available opportunity to divide America by race.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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