Man and Woman of the Year: The Middle Americans

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THE Supreme Court had forbidden it, but they prayed defiantly in a school in Netcong, N.J., reading the morning invocation from the Congressional Record. In the state legislatures, they introduced more than 100 Draconian bills to put down campus dissent. In West Virginia, they passed a law absolving police in advance of guilt in any riot deaths. In Minneapolis they elected a police detective to be mayor. Everywhere, they flew the colors of assertive patriotism. Their car windows were plastered with American-flag decals, their ideological totems. In the bumper-sticker dialogue of the freeways, they answered MAKE LOVE NOT WAR with HONOR AMERICA or SPIRO IS MY HERO. They sent Richard Nixon to the White House and two teams of astronauts to the moon. They were both exalted and afraid. The mysteries of space were nothing, after all, compared with the menacing confusions of their own society.

The American dream that they were living was no longer the dream as advertised. They feared that they were beginning to lose their grip on the country. Others seemed to be taking over —the liberals, the radicals, the defiant young, a communications industry that they often believed was lying to them. The Saturday Evening Post folded, but the older world of Norman Rockwell icons was long gone anyway. No one celebrated them; intellectuals dismissed their lore as banality. Pornography, dissent and drugs seemed to wash over them in waves, bearing some of their children away.

But in 1969 they began to assert themselves. They were "discovered" first by politicians and the press, and then they started to discover themselves. In the Administration's voices—especially in the Vice President's and the Attorney General's—in the achievements and the character of the astronauts, in a murmurous and pervasive discontent, they sought to reclaim their culture. It was their interpretation of patriotism that bought Richard Nixon the time to pursue a gradual withdrawal from the war. By their silent but newly felt presence, they influenced the mood of government and the course of legislation, and thus began to shape the course of the nation and the nation's course in the world. The Men and Women of the Year were the Middle Americans.

The Battleground of Change

"Some say that you can't rationalize the plight of the kids," observes the Hudson Institute's Frank Armbruster, "you have got to feel it. The same thing is true of Middle America; you have to feel it." The Middle Americans cherish, apprehensively, a system of values that they see assaulted and mocked everywhere—everywhere except in Richard Nixon's Washington. "This," they will say with an air of embarrassment that such a truth need be stated at all, "is the greatest country in the world. Why are people trying to tear it down?"

Middle Americans both physically and ideologically inhabit the battleground of change, and they feel themselves most threatened by it. Taxes hit them the hardest, and yet they feel that they have less and less voice in where and how their money is spent. The Woman of the Year, perhaps even more than her husband, senses the chaos. Often enough, inflation determines the diet she feeds her family. She is anxious about safety in the streets. She worries about her children being bussed, about the sex education to which

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