Children of the silent majority: Nixon, new politics and the youth vote, 1968-1972
Blumenthal, Seth E.
MetadataShow full item record
"Children of the Silent Majority: Nixon, New Politics, and the Youth Vote, 1968-1972" investigates the emergence of young Americans as a major force in national politics, arguing that the 1968 generation constrained the conservative realignment that Richard Nixon envisioned but also revitalized the Republican Party after the voting age fell to eighteen. Despite the widespread assumption that the vast cadre of young voters casting ballots for the first time in 1972 would tilt the electorate to the Democratic Party, this dissertation reveals that the Nixon administration targeted and mobilized young Americans not aligned with the left--people Nixon's staff called the "sons and daughters of the silent majority." Nixon cultivated his own youth cadre, Young Voters for the President (YVP). Carefully targeting non-students and campus conservatives to join this 400,000 member organization, YVP leaders employed both grassroots organization and modern Madison Avenue advertising techniques to pry increasingly independent young voters from previous Democratic strongholds such as urban, ethnic enclaves and the Sunbelt. In addition, when the politics of youth--the ways Americans, young and old, thought about young people and youth issues--presented a barrier to Nixon's law-and-order conservative policies on problems such as marijuana and campus disorders, Nixon acquiesced on issues such as the draft and environmental protection. This youth-friendly approach allowed his administration to attract and recruit young voters. This study also explores how youth politics fueled the development of image politics during the1970s, compelling campaigns to embrace new techniques that emphasized targeted polling, television and candidates' personal characteristics over party loyalty. Attracting young voters necessitated a more image savvy campaign, giving Nixon's in-house advertising agency of high-powered executives, the November Group, a central role in campaign strategy. Young voters also supplied the campaign with public relations opportunities to counter Nixon's detractors in the media who relished his "youth problem." This study contributes to the scholarship on the Nixon presidency and the political history of the Republican "New Majority" in the 1960s and 1970s by uncovering the decisive role of young voters and youth issues in those pivotal years.