By John Feehery - 09/26/11 10:37 PM EDT
“And so tonight — to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans — I ask for your support.”
In November of 1969, Richard Nixon uttered this line in a televised address to the nation, explaining his plans in Vietnam.
The silent majority came to mean the white middle and lower middle class of America, and Nixon’s phrase came to be seen as a way to polarize an already polarized society.
But the phrase still has some uses.
The Republican Party has been embroiled in revolution from the so-called Tea Party Patriots.
These Tea Party Republicans were the first to embrace Sarah Palin. They gained inspiration from Glenn Beck back when Beck was the man. They held large protests around the country and on the National Mall. They targeted Republicans in primary fights in the midterm election, and successfully took out Bob Bennett, the senator from Utah; Mike Castle, the favorite to win the Delaware Senate seat; and Lisa Murkowski, the sitting senator from Alaska (who ended up winning the general election in a daring third-party challenge).
The Tea Party Republicans are loud, they are mad, and they believe they are in charge.
But they aren’t.
There is a silent majority of Republicans who span the nation and might understand the frustration of the Tea Party, but they don’t appreciate its tactics.
Who is this silent majority?
They are the local community leaders who make America great.
They participate in the local Chambers of Commerce or Kiwanis Clubs at the monthly meetings. They coach the Little League baseball team or they drive their kids to soccer practice. They volunteer at the senior citizens’ home or the local hospital, or they are the Cub Scout pack leader.
They have jobs, they pay taxes, they have full schedules. They treat politics not like a hobby and more like a civic duty. They read the newspapers (maybe online), but they don’t have time to get all worked up reading the right-wing blog sites.
They want a functioning government, at the local, state and federal level, but especially at the local level. They want their schools to be good, because it is better for property values.
They are willing to pay their fair share in taxes, but they are disgusted by how much waste they see in government. They are willing to give their neighbors a helping hand, but they don’t appreciate people ripping off the system.
This silent majority has a Burkean view of revolution. They like respectful dialogue and they don’t like the haters. They don’t feel comfortable with those folks who cheered Rick Perry when he coldly talked about all the people he put to death or when the people cheered at the thought of a 30-year-old dying because he didn’t have healthcare, or when the people booed a gay Iraq war veteran.
The silent majority of the Republican Party asserts itself in presidential elections and in real primaries with real voters. The silent majority doesn’t do straw polls or conventions or caucuses. They have jobs they have to get to.
These are the folks who nominated Ike over Robert Taft. They nominated Nixon in 1960 and again in 1968. They nominated Ford over Reagan, Reagan over Bush, Bush over Dole, Dole over Buchanan, Bush II over McCain and McCain over Romney.
They like to pick the people they know. They like to pick the guy (and it has always been a guy) who has paid his dues on the national stage. They don’t pick insurgents, they don’t pick revolutionaries (except for Goldwater, and look how well that worked out for them), and they don’t pick dark horses.
They aren’t going to pick Michele Bachmann. They aren’t going to pick Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman or Herman Cain (despite his nice victory in Florida).
And, right now, it doesn’t look like they are going to pick Rick Perry.
That leaves Mitt Romney, unless, of course, Jeb Bush gets in the race.
The silent majority will assert itself eventually. It always does.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com