“Majority rule” must take minority rights into account
The August 13 issue of Valley News featured a Community Voices article titled “Minority Rule Has Got to Go,” written by Beth Anderson. The author seems to advocate simple “majority rule” in all situations.
This idea was considered and rejected during the drafting of the Constitution. The United States was formed as a (representative) republic, not a direct democracy, and for good reason. The Founders foresaw that in a large, diverse country like ours, a dominant interest would trump the rights and freedoms of a minority. The rule of law was established in the Constitution so that the more populous industrial/commercial states would not unduly control the states and citizens of small agricultural states.
When the Constitution was written and ratified, the term “faction” was used to describe a group of people – a majority or a minority – who shared a common economic or political opinion. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison wrote, “A pure democracy can admit of no remedy for the misdeeds of factions. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is no stopping the incentives to sacrifice the weaker party. This is why democracies have never found themselves incompatible with personal security or property rights; and were, in general, as short in life as they were violent in death.
Our Constitution, which describes a representative republic and not a pure democracy, was ratified 234 years ago and it serves us well. Our bicameral legislature, three branches of government, and the Bill of Rights are all described there, and the United States has been a beacon for freedom-loving people around the world. When the Constitution is respected, we all benefit, since our rights and freedoms are protected.
Anderson cites the recent Supreme Court decision that returned the issue of abortion to the states as an example of “minority rule.” She probably wasn’t around in 1972, but I was. Michigan and North Dakota (where I was living at the time) held abortion referendums during the November statewide ballot.
In Michigan, voters said abortion should not be performed in Michigan by a majority of about 3-2. In North Dakota, it was about 4-1. So, two months later, seven members of the Supreme Court upset the millions of voters in those two states by declaring that the states could not ban abortion in the first three months. It looks like a real minority rule.
The current Supreme Court has recognized that Roe v. Wade was bad law in the first place. The Bill of Rights (in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution) says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved respectively to the States or to the people.
The Constitution uses neither the word “abortion” nor “privacy”, so it seems pretty clear where the policy on this issue should be made.
Joseph Schiller Shakopee