The 2020 Election: The New Silent Majority

Aatif Rashid
5 min readNov 4, 2019
President Richard Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, surrounded by telegrams from people reacting to his “Silent Majority” speech, 1969 (Source: Nixon White House / Nixon Presidential Library; Public Domain).

Fifty years ago, on November 3, 1969, President Richard Nixon gave his famous “silent majority” speech, a televised address in which he asked Americans to support his plan to end the Vietnam War, what he would later in 1973 describe as “peace with honor.” “And so tonight,” Nixon said on the television that evening, in his oddly stilted cadence, glancing down at the papers in his hands, “to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans — I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge.”

In context, Nixon’s speech was a rebuke to widespread anti-war protests calling for an immediate end to the war, protests which had been ongoing since 1964. Implicitly, when Nixon used the phrase “silent majority,” he was suggesting that most Americans were not like the protesters but instead were willing to achieve the peace Nixon’s way. The anti-war demonstrators, meanwhile, were just a very vocal minority.

Nixon’s speech wasn’t the first use of the phrase “silent majority”; the phrase was employed regularly by various politicians in very different contexts since the nineteenth century. Since 1969, though, Nixon’s usage has become the quintessential example, and the term has now come to mean what it meant in…

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Aatif Rashid

Debut novel PORTRAIT OF SEBASTIAN KHAN (2019, 7.13 Books). Writes about politics and literature.