The man who pioneered Trumpism

In his most famous speech, delivered in Des Moines in November 1969, Agnew took on journalists by asking, “What do Americans know of these men who read the same newspapers and draw their political views from the same sources?” And just as for conservatives today, his political base loved the media-bashing.

Agnew addressed his “silent majority” supporters far from the cosmopolitan coasts, taking on “radical liberals” and those within his own party who failed to back Nixon’s Vietnam War policies. He brushed aside data and analysis as “pabulum for the permissivists.” He went after those who “think that a college education makes you not only intellectually superior, but morally superior as well to those who did not have your opportunity.” He questioned elites who “think that blue-collar work — like fixing an automobile or driving a truck — is not nearly as dignified or significant as pushing a pencil at a tax-exempt foundation.”

A broad swath of Americans loved it. By the end of 1969, Agnew was the third-most-admired man in America, behind only Billy Graham and Nixon.