Nixon and the Fabled Silent Majority

Mason argues that Nixon, "[…] owed his election to the votes of a minority rallied in opposition to the mistakes of the Democrats rather than in support of his promise" (37). The myth of the silent majority would pervade history and haunt Nixon in the coming years of his presidency.
The search for a majority would permeate the White House debate during the Nixon presidency. Patrick Buchanan, a conservative Nixon speechwriter, "[…] had a burning interest in the identification of a new majority and regularly wrote political analyses for Nixon with speculation about how to win this electoral goal" (Mason 39). However, Nixon rarely ventured outside his small group of inner circle advisors for political advice and most of his ideas were generated by a relatively small number of close aides (Mason 40).
Nixon was also politically isolated by the reality of both houses of Congress being in the hands of the opposition. He attempted to reduce the tension between the houses of Congress and his administration by appointing Bryce Harlow as congressional-relations chief. Though this seemed to demonstrate Nixon’s desire to develop a closer relationship with a broader base, it was met with some hostility from the Democrats. Nixon would blame the obstructionist Democrats for the administration’s failures but Mason observes that "[…] the failure was more significantly linked with Nixon’s personal shortcomings" (40). Nixon had included few experienced political people in his administration and most Congressmen dismissed his aides as newly arrived novices. Nixon’s career had likewise been short of national legislation experience. Mason argues that "Especially at a time of divided government, these shortcomings had very significant implications" (40). Nixon had neither a majority nor a mechanism to gain one.
Rather than cultivating majority support in Congress or the public, Nixon became self-obsessed with his own image. He discounted the importance of the legislature and believed, as he used to say, "The President is the government" (qtd. in Mason 41). This would further alienate even Republican members of Congress. Rather than having a silent majority, he was creating a non-existent myth of support that did not exist.
New Yorker writer Pete Hamill noticed the first rumblings of a ‘silent majority’ in 1969. He wrote, "The working-class white man, is actually in revolt against taxes, joyless work, the double standards and short memories of professional politicians, hypocrisy and what he considers the debasement of the American dream" (qtd. in Mason 46). These feelings resonated racist attitudes among those that felt they were too wealthy for welfare and too poor to be mainstream America. This group of white, working, poor would become the base of George Wallace’s campaign. Nixon attempted to captivate this audience as his own by sending a softer message that speechwriter Tom Huston called, "[…] a rhetoric which communicates concern for the legitimate claims of this class, yet avoids any incitement to the baser instincts of man afraid" (qtd. in Mason 47). There may have been a substantial silent Republican constituency, but it was not Nixon’s and it was not a majority.
Nixon’s tactic of using racial divide to generate electoral popularity has been called "disturbing" (Mason 49). His other efforts at capturing the electorate that spread to the issues of law and