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The Vanishing Silent Majority

Back in 1968, Richard Nixon tried to obscure the difference between working class and affluent voters - particularly men - by portraying them all as a part of a silent majority. He portrayed them as both heroes and victims of the tumultuousness of the period.

All of this was before and really a precursor to the profound impacts of feminism, civil rights, gay rights, globalization, growing income disparity, more women in the workplace, the loss of manufacturing, Sex in the City, outsourcing, the technological revolution, the Great Recession - the list goes on and on. 

According to Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, an entire generation of baby boomer men grew up thinking that the office was going to always look like the set of Madmen. Instead, these men today are confused and bewildered by all the the changes in our culture, indeed bewildered by the pace of the change. 

Kimmel, a professor at Stony Brook University, tells Jeff Schechtman in this week's Specific Gravity interview that politicians and talk show hosts, through careful manipulation, have taken advantage of this confusion and transferred it into anger at social institutions. Hence the phenomenon of "angry white men."

And yet, this cultural and political force is considerably diminished in 21st century America. As Senator Lindsey Graham said of the future of the Republican Party, "we are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."

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