Richard Nixon popularized the idea that there existed in America a “silent majority” at odds with the values and vision of the leftist radicals who put the nation through a period of prolonged social upheaval back in the 1960s.
Today the “silent majority” is silent no more. As seen in the Tea Party movement the middle class, on whose shoulders the heavy burden of the nation’s economic health and well-being fall, are beginning to rise up.
They are not social outliers. They are leaders in their communities. They are the kind of people de Tocqueville would have seen as the glue keeping the country from breaking apart. After decades of being taxed and regulated and spent into hard times, seeing their futures and their childrens’ futures put out to sea on an ocean of red ink, watching their economic liberty and their ability to pursue happiness erode, they are fighting back.
The people who form the elite political and media culture laugh at the idea. In a major disconnect, they see the Tea Party movement as just a network of nuts, flakes, and right-wing anarchists that foolishly fails to realize just how good the government has made for them. They are to be tolerated, coddled, perhaps even feared but it is hard to believe they form a lasting threat to the establishment.
The signs that things are changing are everywhere, even though some people will only be able to see them clearly in the rear view mirror. Typically the pool of people seeking federal office, for example, has been the province of local elected officials, the very wealthy, lawyers, the sons and daughters of those holding other offices and union activists. Now, for many of the same reasons that the Tea Party movement came to be, that’s changing.
Call it the revolt of the middle class.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business--the nation’s leading organization of small business owners--32 of its own members are running for Congress this cycle, more in a single year than ever before.
Why? NFIB’s Lisa Goeas puts it well when she says, “Our members feel that the over-reach of government is putting their ability to own and operate there businesses in jeopardy. That level of alarm is what has spurred them to take matters into their own hands and run for office.”
“Independent business owners can only be pushed so far” Goeas says, “before they get involved in a serious way.”
It’s not just small business either. The consistent push toward a “government-first, patients last” national healthcare system like Obamacare sent more than one physician into the political arena. According to one source, 47 doctors sought a seat in Congress in this election cycle, more than three times the number currently serving there. Auto-dealers too have responded, now that the Obama administration decided it could, as part of the partial nationalization of General Motors and Chrysler, abrogate contracts and force dealers to close their doors.
All across America the people derided by the likes of Sinclair Lewis as “Babbitts” are awakening. They are beginning to reassert themselves, pushing back, saying “No” for the first time in a long while. It may not last--the politicians may find a way to mollify them or they may give up and go home. Or they may change the country. Either way they are a more serious, more substantive movement--even in what the smart set patronizingly likes to point out are its inconsistencies and innocence--then what the columnists and commentators who deride them are willing to acknowledge.