Silent majority

Posted by Gary Martin on January 21, 2002

In Reply to: Silent majority posted by Marian on January 21, 2002

: : : We were watching "My Man Godfrey" last night -- "one of the 1930s' delightful, classic screwball comedies" with William Powell and Carole Lombard. The phrase "forgotten man," for one down-on-his-luck, was used. It was the theme of an FDR radio address:
: : : The Forgotten Man
: : : Franklin D. Roosevelt
: : : Radio Address, Albany, N. Y April 7, 1932
: : : ".These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

: : The future President was not the man who coind the phrase [forgotten man], nor was Professor Raymond Moley, though he picked it up and inserted it in that initial speech. A sociologist at Yale University, William Graham Sumner, first used the phrase in an article written in 1883. Far from intending it to describe the destitute, Sumner had in mind the sturdy middle-class citizen who bears society's greatest loads: "Such is the Forgotten Man ... he is not in any way a hero (like a popular orator); nor a problem (like tramps and outcasts); nor an object of sentiment (like the poor and weak); nor a burden (like paupers and loafers) ... therefore, he is forgotten. All the burdens fall on him ..."
: : From _Safire's Political Dictionary_ by William Safire

: : The forgotten man works and votes -- generally he prays -- but his chief business in li fe is to pay.... Who and where is the forgotten man in this case, who will have to pay for it all?
: : --William Graham Sumner, _The Forgotten Man_, 1885

: All of this makes me wonder about the origin of another, similar phrase: the silent majority. Was former U.S. President Richard Nixon the first to utter it, or did someone precede him?

I don't know who originated it but it always seemed to me to be a clever marketing manoeuvre for a politician: invent the silent majority and then claim that they were on your side. Who could claim otherwise? Not the majority, they were silent.