Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Has the silent majority now been brainwashed?

The election of Obama heralds the erosion of the Republican Party's `silent majority' strategy as well as bringing to an end an important chapter in America's culture wars. The term `silent majority' was promoted by former President Richard Nixon; in a speech in November 1969 he applied it to those people who respected American institutions, did not participate in anti-Vietnam demonstrations, and who were appalled by the counterculture of the 1960s.

The term `silent majority' had very clear populist connotations. These were people who were held in contempt by the cultural elites and whose sentiments and interests were ignored by Hollywood and the media. The term also contained unspoken assumptions about the racial fears of both middle-class and lower-income and particularly suburban whites. It signalled the idea that it was okay to feel insecure about the implications of the civil rights revolution and to oppose the `unreasonable' demands associated with the aspiration of black people for a better life.

During the past 40 years, the Republican strategy of cultivating the silent majority proved remarkably successful in consolidating a base of support for the party. Its ability to attract even blue-collar Democrats in the 1980s demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. However, the appeal to the silent majority was always fundamentally defensive in its orientation. It spoke to people who were worried about the impact of change on their lives; it tended to represent change as a negative and hostile thing. And in a world of rapid and constant change, such an outlook could provide very little guidance to people facing everyday practical problems. Until recent times, the incoherent and shallow character of the ideas contained in the `silent majority' approach did not much matter because, in many respects, this was indeed a silent conversation.

However, the silent and taken-for granted nature of this constituency's views and sentiments deprived them of any political, intellectual and ultimately cultural influence or coherence. From the outside, the silent majority was perceived by friend and foe alike as a stable block with fixed ideas. But the very fact that it relied on unspoken sentiments, particularly on the subject of race, meant that it lacked a capacity to influence American society in any significant way. Indeed, although most commentators failed to notice this fact, the group labelled `the silent majority' was itself coming under the influence of the cultural elite's views and attitudes, as institutionalised through education, the media and other institutions.

The very fact that the passions that influenced the silent majority could not be openly articulated betrayed a sense of confusion, bad faith, even guilt. Consequently, even the influence of racial fears began to diminish. And although people could still be driven by their individual prejudices, the strength of race as a public and political force gradually declined. Indeed, for some time the political significance of race has become less important than most analysts and commentators have believed.

Obama's victory is testimony to the diminished significance of race. Obama did not win the majority of white voters. But his support among whites is equal to the votes achieved by the last three white Democratic presidential candidates and represents a slight improvement on the number won by 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry. The exit polls indicate that Obama received 40 per cent of the votes of white men and a significant majority of the younger white people's votes. More significantly, he did remarkably well among those who were formerly part of the silent majority. He succeeded in gaining significant support from white voters in working-class areas and in many key white suburbs. He carried areas like Cambria County in Western Pennsylvania, a region dominated by white blue-collar workers. And he even won Virginia, home to the capital of the Confederacy.

The politicisation of cultural differences, which gave meaning to the silent majority, has blown up in the faces of the founders and representatives of this silent group of people. Whereas in the past the Nixon critique of the liberal media and the cultural elites could mobilise significant support, today such critiques fail to provide the Republicans with any political momentum. In fact, in the past decade the liberal cultural elites have gone on the offensive and have embraced the culture war with relish. They have successfully discredited the all-too-easy target of the Bush administration. They also ran an effective campaign against Sarah Palin and managed to contain her impact on the electorate.

The unspoken assumptions of the silent majority are no match for the very public and vociferous cultural values of the silent majority's opponents in the liberal elite. For many decades, the strategy of cultivating a silent constituency spared the Republicans the trouble of having to put forward a coherent political identity that might have engaged and inspired the public. As a result, they have lost the younger generations. Their support among Hispanics - the fastest growing constituency in America - has disintegrated. The Republicans have lost support in traditional red states in the South, Midwest and Rocky Mountains, too. Obama has a larger mandate than any Democratic president-elect since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

The election also demonstrates that America is No Country For Old Men. The only group where Obama failed to make any headway was among senior citizens. This is the constituency that is most intimidated by change and least likely to disassociate itself from the unspoken values of the silent majority. Of course, their defiant stand against the temper of the times can also be interpreted as an obituary to the silent majority.

The disintegration of silent-majority populism represents a positive development. It might encourage public debate to acquire a more open and reflective character. The only downside of this development is that it was in part brought about by the influence of the narrow-minded anti-populism of America's cultural oligarchy. Their success in demonising smalltown America and its unenlightened rednecks has often been assisted by prejudices that are in fact the mirror image of those held by their opponents. However, hopefully the fluidity that has been introduced into public life through the course of this election will create opportunities for debating issues of substance, rather than hiding behind cultural caricatures.


Freedom Now Stands Alone

Melanie Phillips of the UK Spectator is one of the few journalists to grasp the implications of Obama's victory in the USA

So the answer to my question turned out to be yes, America really was going to do this. A historic moment indeed. The hyperbole for once is not exaggerated: this is a watershed election which changes the fate of the world. The fear however is that the world now becomes very much less safe for all of us as a result.

Those of us who have looked on appalled during this most frightening of presidential elections - at the suspension of reason and its replacement by thuggery -- can only hope that the way this man governs will be very different from the profile provided by his influences, associations and record to date. It's a faint hope - the enemies of America, freedom and the west will certainly be rejoicing today.

America has voted for change, apparently. Change from what, precisely? From Bush? But in the second term, Bush stopped being Bush. His foreign policy lurched from paralysis to appeasement (redeemed only by the strategic genius of Gen Petraeus - and what price Petraeus now?) As Frank Gaffney wrote in the Washington Times yesterday, Bush's Treasury is about to open the way for sharia law to be imposed upon America's banking system. And it was a Democrat-controlled Congress that helped provoke the sub-prime lending crisis that triggered the current financial meltdown.

What this election tells us is that America voted for change because America is in the process of changing - not just demographically by becoming less white and more diverse, but as the result of a culture war in which western civilisation is losing out to a far-left agenda which has become mainstream, teaching American children to despise the founding values of their country and hijacking discourse by the minority power-grab of victim-culture.

The reaction of conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic to this undoubted change - not just in the US but in Britain too - shows the intellectual disarray caused by these profound developments. They say politicians must stop trying to hold the cultural line and go instead with the flow of change. In Britain, the Tory party has adopted this strategy. Now there are Republicans saying the same thing.

But John McCain is a Republican who does not fit the old template, who does subscribe to some of this `change' agenda on a number of issues. As a result, he was incapable of attacking Obama on the most important grounds of all: that he stood for values inimical to America's founding principles. When he did venture into this territory, it was half-cocked and far too late, appearing merely like the desperate throw of a loser. The reason he couldn't do it earlier was that he had no coherent platform of his own. So why vote for a muddled and erratic quasi-'progressive' when the real thing is a rock star?

It cannot be said too emphatically -- the Republicans lost this election. Obama ran a superbly disciplined campaign and he was an impressive candidate, particularly in his calm and stately demeanour throughout. The Republicans screwed up in government, they selected a hopelessly frail and erratic candidate, he ran a shambolic campaign. They deserved to lose.

So now we are promised a change in America's fundamental values. And they really will be changed. Obama has said in terms that he thinks the US constitution is flawed. America's belief in itself as defending individual liberty, truth and justice on behalf of the free world will now be expiated instead as its original sin. Those who have for the past eight years worked to bring down the America that defends and protects life and liberty are today ecstatic. They have stormed the very citadel on Pennsylvania Avenue itself.

Millions of Americans remain lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy. They find themselves today abandoned, horrified, deeply apprehensive for the future of their country and the free world. No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; they must now look elsewhere.


Message To Conservatives: You Are Racists And Should Be Silenced

By Austin Hill, a Talk Show Host at Washington, DC's 630 WMAL Radio

For a while I thought it was just me. But in the final days leading up to the national election, I began to notice it on both local and national talk shows around the country. And now that we are a few days past Mr. Obama's election night victory, it seems quite clear: things have gotten more intense, not less. I'm writing here about the attacks that are being telephoned-in to conservative talk radio hosts around the country. I've noticed a consistent increase of people that I'll call "Obama enthusiasts" popping-up as callers on conservative talk shows, and no matter what the topic on the show may be, the assertions from the callers follow a predictable pattern.

The precise choice of words that the caller uses in their line of attack may vary, but the pattern essentially goes like this: A) The caller asserts to the host that "all you ever do is attack Barack Obama;" B) The caller then comes around to asserting to the host that "you are obviously a "racist" (or "you are a bigot," or "you think Black people are inferior to White people," or something of that sort); and then the caller concludes with C) "you should be removed from the `public airwaves'" (or some variation of the general sentiment that "you should just be silenced" or "you should shut-up").

Now let me be clear: I'm not complaining about this, not at all. In fact, I welcome it on my talk show at 630 WMAL radio in Washington, D.C. It's no secret that talk radio thrives in controversy, and conversely, a talk show can become boring if everyone is "in agreement" with the host.

But entertaining talk show content is one thing. And the broader implications of people's words outside of a talk show can be something different (I'm reminded here of the many times over the years that I've heard Rush say "words mean things"). And the implications, the "meaning," of the pattern that I've identified above, seems to be this: If you so much as question the President-elect, you are necessarily a "racist," and your voice should, therefore, be removed from the public square.

I must also add that, while the hostility I'm hearing on conservative talk radio is mostly directed at white, male hosts, it's not necessarily a "black against white" phenomena. For example, on my show last Friday while I was discussing Mr. Obama's remarks about the economy at his recent press conference, I received a call from "Roberto," a man with a Hispanic sounding accent in Arlington, VA. Roberto's opening salvo was to say that I was being "patronizing" by pronouncing his name with the traditional, Spanish "rolling R" sound.

Now, I grew up in Southern California surrounded by Spanish speakers, and I was taught by my "white Mom" that, as a matter of respect, I should speak Spanish as it was intended to be spoken, and NOT like a "gringo." But never mind that "respect" thing. As far as Roberto was concerned, I was simply offensive. And then, of course, the pattern kicked-in - - I was questioning the President-elect's remarks because I'm a racist, and therefore I should be silenced.

I've heard this rhetoric enough times, and on so many different talk shows in addition to my own, that I believe there is some organizational effort behind it. I'm not insinuating that the finger prints of our President-elect are on this, and the participants in this might be quite loosely organized, at best.

But there is a certain mindset, a certain philosophy that underlies this rhetoric, and it is becoming more widespread. It is the belief if you are not in lock-step with the President-elect's agenda, or if you merely dare to question it, you are obviously motivated by your hatred of ethnic minorities, and you have no place in the broad national debate. And it is an anathema to our freedoms under the First Amendment.

Conservative Americans in particular need to understand that in this new era, the rules have changed. And to understand this change, conservatives need to begin by reading "Rules For Radicals," a book published in 1971 by noted "community organizer" (and a man who is said to have influenced Mr. Obama) Saul Alinsky.

Column space is limited here, so you'll have to get a copy of the book for yourself. But consider this notion from Alinksy's rule #5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It's hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."

And consider this language from rule #11, wherein Alinsky suggests that the main job of a "community organizer" is to bait his opponent into reacting in a certain way: "The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength." Welcome to the new era.


"Campaign for Human Development": A charity that is a fraud on Catholics

The Campaign for Human Development (CHD) is an annual collection in parishes, usually on one of the last two Sundays in November. It used to be called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development but the Catholic was dropped, which is just as well since it has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it. Some bishops no longer allow the CHD collection in their dioceses, and more should not allow it. In fact, CHD, misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice, should, at long last, be terminated.

Ten years ago, CHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church's mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians. Now it turns out that CHD has long been a major funder of ACORN, a national community agitation organization in support of leftist causes, including the abortion license.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is under criminal investigation in several states. In the last decade CHD gave ACORN well over seven million dollars, including more than a million in the past year. It is acknowledged that ACORN, with which Sen. Obama had a close connection over the years, was a major player in his presidential campaign. The bishops say they are investigating the connection between CHD and ACORN. They say they are worried that it might jeopardize the Church's tax-exemption. No mention is made of abusing the trust of the Catholic faithful.

What most Catholics don't know, and what would likely astonish them, is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor. Part of the thinking when it was established in the ideological climate of the 1960s is that Catholic concern for the poor would not be perceived as credible if CHD funded Catholic organizations.

Yes, that's bizarre, but the history of CHD is bizarre. The bishops could really help poor people by promptly shutting down CHD and giving any remaining funds to, for instance, Catholic inner-city schools. In any event, if there is a collection at your parish this month, I suggest that you can return the envelope empty-and perhaps with a note of explanation-without the slightest moral hesitation.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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