To pair the phrase “silent majority” with the concept of the progressive agenda may seem odd considering the phrase was originally coined by the decidedly unliberal former President Richard Nixon. Contextually, it was used as a means of describing a group of American citizens whose views remained the standard in our nation’s culture but were perceived as being underrepresented in politics.
At the time, it may have seemed somewhat like an unsubtle fanning of the white supremacist backlash against the Civil Rights Movement, and frankly, it still seems like that today given the barrage of leaked morally-questionable Richard Nixon footage the public has since been granted access to. The phrase in its most literal sense, however, has come to apply to an entirely new phenomenon in recent years: the majority of the American population holding progressive views on individual issues while simultaneously electing some of the progressive’s biggest rivals. What gives?
As a generally progressive-supporting independent myself, the false dichotomy that has established the movement as the fractured, alt-left ramblings of an elderly human Lorax (and thus, the most far-reaching antagonist to any conservative viewpoint) is concerning. Not because losing hurts my feelings and not even out of concern for my own personal attachments to my views, but genuinely on behalf of everyone in America who seeks a better leadership structure, regardless of party.
What is, at its surface level, possibly the most universally agreeable stance in post-recession America excluding the legalization of marijuana? The answer: a big, fat raised middle finger to the establishment. Whether you’re a Trump-voting rural factory worker or a Bernie-backing broke student in the Bronx, your allegiance does not lie with the man. This is entirely understandable of course, considering everyone who is old enough to vote can recall the recent economic crisis being largely caused by the greed of large-scale investment bankers who never saw much punishment. The disdain absolutely comes with basis.
This is entirely understandable of course, considering everyone who is old enough to vote can recall the recent economic crisis being largely caused by the greed of large-scale investment bankers who never saw much punishment. The extreme resistance to quickly forgive those who executed the financial plague of the late 2000s is a quality that, nowadays, transcends even the most polarized of party lines.
The hangup? A decent actor with no progressive virtues or policies whatsoever was run against a poor actress with some legitimately progressive ideas, and people voted with their guts. Just Donald Trump using his self-funding of his campaign as a positive talking point spoke volumes of the communication gap the progressive agenda maintains with those it serves. After all, multi-bankrupt real estate heir running on his own money means that it is in his best financial interest to adopt policies that benefit him.
After all, why would he work for the people? A multi-bankrupt real estate heir running on his own money means that it is in his best financial interest to adopt policies that benefit him. While the critiques of other candidates Wall Street ties were absolutely fair and reflective of a painful issue in recent history that should be addressed, all Donald Trump did to transcend their vague associative corruption was cut out the middleman and run as the establishment itself. That is why, to many, it was unsurprising when he then drained the swamp by polluting it with even more establishment-direct wealth and quickly rolling back. His political career had been built and sustained with the money he earned as one of them.
That is why, to many, it was unsurprising when he then drained the swamp by polluting it with even more establishment-direct wealth and quickly rolling back. His political career had been built and sustained with the money he earned as one of them.
While Trump’s reflection of his anti-establishment persona may be lackluster, the concerns he spoke to were not. In the same election which elected Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders ran the largest campaign ever funded by small donations, a campaign which was based on a pro-labor platform that targeted economic inequality as its primary issue. Sanders has also polled relatively highly amongst Republican voters, as was reported by The Hill amongst many other media outlets. In a time when the bases of these two candidates are often portrayed as opposites, there does seem to be at least some tangible common ground for well-meaning leaders to work from.
What can progressives do better to show their constituents, regardless of party, that they care? Address the benefits of progressivism as it applies to each group, not just on the large, nerdy scale. Take a stand for social issues and unite the left by illustrating how progressive approaches can aid in dissipating the prison industrial complex, in protecting women’s access to inclusive healthcare, in ensuring that low-income communities have access to educational and financial resources, and in institutionally removing wealth as a tool of oppression. On the other hand, speak to right-wing populists by explaining how progressivism actively fights for good jobs, fair pay, uncorrupted politics, and protections for every hardworking American against the exploitations of the establishment.
Show them that it isn’t just about breaking up the big banks; it is about providing truly equal opportunities for all. Show them that the duty of a public servant comes before that of any party affiliation and that even if they don’t side with you, this plan will still consider their perspective and work to their benefit in some way. While the priorities are always preserving a fair democracy and equal opportunities, the primarily economic approach is simply the most powerful method of swaying a capitalistic society.
Amidst our current political divisions, much of the public may appear to be under the impression that another demographic’s elevation means their own downfall, but this is not the case. Do not be afraid to confront that you are purposely accommodating the overlapping concerns of both sides. All groups deserve to know how your approach actively fights for them, not just how the other guy’s plan sucks (accurate as it may be). Luckily, that explanation does not always have to be a challenge to manifest.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]