Some candidates seem convinced that a “silent majority” is waiting for the right campaign.
They are doubly wrong.
Those who are silent don’t vote, and those who might are not a majority.
Donald Trump’s campaign is not the first based on the premise of a great hidden mother lode of voters, but he says it loudest.
“There is a massive silent majority that is fed up,” an early campaign press release read.
At the Oklahoma State Fair, he was still on message Friday, telling a crowd of 5,000 that the silent majority “gave up — and we are not giving up this time.”
President Richard M. Nixon coined the term in fall 1969, rallying alienated middle America only a few months after the first moon landing and Woodstock.
But many of those adults are gone, and rural states have lost electoral votes. Their children came from smaller families and are outnumbered by a growing urban voter base. The share of minority voters alone has more than doubled since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.
“I don’t think there is a ‘silent majority,’ but there is without question a sizable disenchanted minority which is very receptive to Trump’s visceral and vocal anti-establishment message,” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones wrote in an email.
If there is a genuine silent majority, he said, it is the 75 to 80 percent of Americans who don’t vote in a Republican primary, giving the small anti-establishment faction all the power.
(Local example: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also talks about a “silent majority” of millions of Christians who sat out 2008 or 2012, viewing John McCain or Mitt Romney as uninspired. But in 2012, Cruz was nominated for U.S. Senate by less than 5 percent of registered voters. More than 90 percent remained silent.)
“There clearly is a silent majority,” Texas Christian University political science professor Jim Riddlesperger wrote by email, “in that it’s really a minority who are active in any sense of the word. … Anyone who appeals primarily to silent folks won’t get far.”
At Trump’s Dallas rally Sept. 14, the campaign distributed signs reading: “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.”
Fort Worth Republican Cheryl Surber, a former nominee for justice of the peace, had Trump autograph hers.
She likes Trump, she said, because “he can’t be bought.”
She also likes him because “he’s a natural-born citizen, unlike Cruz, [Bobby] Jindal, [Marco] Rubio or [Rick] Santorum” — taking a conspiracy website’s view of the constitutional requirement.
Then, at the Oklahoma fair speech Friday, some in Trump’s crowd booed when he mentioned Pope Francis.
Trump may wish some voters would remain silent.