The Death of the “Silent Majority…”

It’s been a rather common dream among the extremes of the political discourse; that among the masses of those that don’t/won’t/can’t vote there is a swell of support for them and their message specifically, and thus their platform is nigh infinitely more popular than polling or general sentiment would suggest.

For the alt-right, they insist that there are masses of people in “blue” states who are in lockstep with their isolationist and conservative message, but they are demoralized by dirty liberal dominance.

For leftists, they tell us that there’s an army of wanna-be socialists through every vein of this country that are either beaten down by “politics as usual” or simply don’t realize that they are actually in favor of wealth redistribution, and merely need to hear it from a major leader.

In the 2020 election, we had a chance to see if there is any validity to the “silent majority.” Roughly 3/4ths of eligible voters showed up, a massive uptick from the roughly 50% that normally do. If there was any sign of a previously ignored block of voters one way or the other… surely we’d see signs of those people, at least in the margins.

And at the end of the day, with both candidates reaching record numbers of votes (literally the most and second most in any presidential election in the country’s history)…

The voting splits were almost frighteningly similar to the last twenty years; once again the presidency decided pretty much at the margins. Quite literally; roughly 100k votes among the 150+ million in a handful of states go the other way, and we’re talking about Donald Trump’s second term.

(And for what it’s worth, I think what we’re seeing from our polls is less a problem with finding out who actually supports who, as once again, the predicted splits of the total vote were well within the margin of error, and more a problem of polls being used for something they aren’t well equipped to do… which is trying to work on a micro scale in the one narrow band that actually is extremely volatile.)

It seems pretty clear that there is no silent majority. It doesn’t exist, and even a cursory understanding of statistics should have led to that conclusion. Give any statistician a random sample set of 1 in 2 and they will be exceedingly confident that the other 50% of that set will resemble what has been measured.

And while it’s true that the voting public isn’t a truly random sample size (due to things like vote suppression), there was no reason to believe that it skewed in any particular direction. There wasn’t any particular demographic statistically under-represented despite the best efforts of state and local governments (basically suppression of poor and minority voters was largely countered by laziness and disinterest from white voters).

It would seem that for every liberal/progressive in Texas or the Gulf Coast who was disenfranchised, there is an equal number of conservatives in places like New York or California that don’t bother showing up because they don’t feel their vote matters, either.

(This is a problem of the Electoral College that frankly everyone should find distasteful, regardless of political inclination.)

Nor was there any particular region that was being underrepresented. For all the “Get Out The Vote” efforts that turned states like Georgia and Virginia and North Carolina into battleground states, that inspired equally effective conservative efforts that turned the upper Midwest from fairly solid “blue” to a much more active “purple” as well.

The physical battle lines may shift, the ideological ones aren’t. Everyone pretty much knows what side they are on.

So what does this mean?

Well, it’s frankly good news for conservatives, in my estimation, even as their far-right flank was one of the most aggressive believers in the “silent majority.” Their message is rather simple, and it keeps the various groups in line. Irrational fear based on anyone different from them; that liberals are out to take their guns, that women will be lined up around the block to kill their unborn children, and that there are enemies in all directions invested with the goal of destroying their families and their way of life.

As disgusting and misleading the platform is, fear remains the single easiest and effective motivator of the human species. It works, and they’re going to keep using it until it doesn’t.

It’s less good news for liberals and progressives, because both major camps on the left side of the ledger have staked their entire platforms on the idea of a “silent majority,” at least in different ways.

Progressives, it’s time to stop waiting for the Riders of Rohan to appear from the west to lift you to victory. They simply don’t exist. The unvoting public is as moderate to conservative as the voting public you have tended to scorn. There are no swaths of unknowing socialists that you can reach.

For moderates, they need to drop the notion of appealing to the center-right. If the 2020 election should have shown you anything, it’s that it’s not going to happen in any meaningful numbers. “Centrist” Republicans may pay lip service to switching, but when they are alone in the booth, they’ll fall in line just like every other Republican, regardless of how disgusting of a man the GOP has at the top of the ticket.

We have to play with the hand we have, not the one we want to have.

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