You’ve heard of the Silent Majority. Well, as the Deplorables they’re not so silent anymore. But where did they spring from?
A good argument can be made that they germinated from Nixon’s message in the 1968 election. That term was his accurate description of those who felt alienated by the loud and countercultural New Left. In fact, if you take Nixon’s total, and add those of his more right-wing general election competitor George Wallace, you get 57 percent of the popular vote and 347 electoral votes. A veritable landslide against a relatively moderate Dem. Such was the actual electoral strength of the 60s New Left they couldn’t even get a nominee.
And it’s worse for the Bolshies in 1972, as Nixon massacred their man McGovern by even bigger totals. This during the height of the hard-Left’s so-called “peace movement,” which could be better rendered as the “surrender the South Vietnamese people to Marxist tyranny movement.”
However, there was a cultural precursor to those election results. Those Republican wins just didn’t materialize completely out of candidate or platform appeal. I think they can be found to a solid degree in the viewers, and sustained viewership to this day, of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
No, I’m not kidding.
How did I come to this epiphany? I did so while sitting in my own version of Sam Drucker’s General Store (yes I know, different show), the Annapolis Cigar Company, and watching Andy, Barney, Otis, and the gang while I enjoyed fine tobacco and old bourbon. Rome, the cigar lounge owner, is obsessed by the program. Ergo, it is required viewing.
It came to me that the residents of Mayberry, NC, no matter that their deputy sheriff bore a striking resemblance to Mick Jagger, weren’t exactly into the Stones, weed, or student-Left politics. Church potluck suppers would do just fine for their highs, and the wisdom held forth at Floyd’s Barbershop met their jones for collective political thought. This image of traditional, bucolic, and rural America corresponds greatly to the lifestyle modes of many Nixon, Wallace, and Trump voters.
Though, not to all of them.
Some of us —yes, I include myself in this host— would have preferred to live in the neighborhood of 148 Bonnie Meadow Road, New Rochelle, New York. That was, as I know you remember, the home of Rob and Laura Petrie of the “Dick Van Dyke Show.” That “Mad Men” era of urbane sophistication and cosmopolitan WFB conservatism was probably the American cultural apogee. It was just before children took over the popular culture in the mid to late 1960s.
Though, would have preferred Cocoa Beach to either locale.
Those New Rochelle voters could have gone either way in 1960, probably went for LBJ in ’64, but were so repulsed, in alliance with Mayberry and Hooterville, by the excesses of the New Left that a sizable number of them migrated to the GOP. They stayed there in ’72 and after the Watergate debacle began to fragment.
Some of them held fast and made up part of the future Reagan coalition. Others less sensible cut and ran from political adulthood and thus retreated into a childishly petulant and anti-American Democratic Party increasingly run by those they disdained in 1968. The ideological heirs of the losers of ’68 and ’72 command that party today.
The Andy voters? They’ve never cut and run from anything in their lives besides revenuers.
Biding their time, they loved Reagan, tolerated Bush the Elder, were disappointed in Bush the Younger, and have been thrilled by the New Yorker who has improbably become their champion.
Traditional Americans of rural heritage or residence never wavered. Political fads and fashions came and went but the Mayberry of the mind held true and steady. As the Silent Majority and now as Trump voters, they continue to defiantly stand for America and their vision of it.
It’s the kind of thing that would make Aunt Bea right proud.