There is a difference between minority rights and the minority rule

People don’t rule just because they are the loudest or the most heavily armed.

(Niki Chan Wylie | Special for The Tribune) A crowd gathers at a candlelight vigil for democracy at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building on January 6, 2022.

Since the beginning of the American self-government experiment, we have all worried about what Founding Father John Adams and French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville called “the tyranny of the majority”.

It is the idea that, in a pure democracy, whatever leader or faction can muster the most votes will make and enforce the laws, and those who lose have no say. This could mean that the winners would slaughter the losers, banish them, or seize their possessions as spoils of war.

Concern about the excesses of democracy led the founding generation and those who followed to come up with an arrangement of government that, even with democratic elections at its base, divides real power into enough layers and levels that someone has to win a terrible lot of elections to take over any company.

Our system at least claims to put some things beyond the reach of majority votes. Freedom of religion and expression, due process, not having your property confiscated without fair payment, stuff like that, doesn’t depend, at least in theory, on who won the last election.

In the 20th century, the concept of “minority” became less the losing side of an election than the varieties of human beings who have been denied personality rights and privileges on the basis of skin color, religious or sexual heritage. We have made a lot of progress towards the full inclusion of everyone, at least before the law, so much so that it is sometimes considered advantageous to claim minority status for yourself in order to get what you want.

Hence things like Senate obstruction, the parliamentary technique of allowing a minority to thwart the will of the majority by preventing legislation from moving forward unless it obtains the support of others. minus 60 of the 100 senators. Or even the existence of the Senate itself, where the two-senator-per-state rule means that senators representing a minority of the population – states with more cows than inhabitants – can routinely outweigh those who hold the mandate of a much larger majority.

When figures like Utah Senator Mike Lee defend the filibuster against the charge that she empowers the minority over the majority, he wonders what your problem is. Isn’t America all about defending the rights of the minority?

Not that kind of minority.

If a simple majority of senators had the power to pass, say, a new federal voting law, or raise taxes for the rich, or pass the Green New Deal, that wouldn’t deprive a minority of his rights. Anyone who lost that argument could still speak and write and attend church and buy property and be safe from unlawful arrests or unwarranted searches and seizures. And they could still vote.

Between the undemocratic nature of the Senate and the Republicans’ ability to gerrymander House districts to give majority power to a minority of voters, America is moving towards a position of superiority. , if not to total tyranny, of the minority.

And when the political perversion of our system is not complete or swift enough, there is always the threat of gun violence to tip the scales.

The mobs that stormed the United States Capitol a year ago on Thursday, as well as the armed hooligans who threatened the legal legislatures of Michigan, Oregon and elsewhere, are the claims of a minority of Americans hold power over the majority simply because they are stronger and meaner and more violent.

They are not claiming that their rights of expression, religion, peaceful assembly, property, due process and vote are threatened because The Former Guy did not win the 2020 election or because people who do not not look like they have an equal chance to register and vote. It’s nothing more than a massive and potentially deadly tantrum thrown by people who don’t really care whether it’s a majority or a minority ruling, as long as they are ruling. .

Our democracy, our republic, our constitutional protections for minorities and for every individual, are all threatened because the idea of ​​’minority’ is wrongly displaced from those whose fundamental rights need protection to those who think they are. specially have the right to govern by reason of color of skin, inheritance or possession of the most semi-automatic weapons.

Our constitutional balance can work if we respect the principles of universal suffrage, fair electoral districts, majority rule with strong Bill of Rights protections for each individual. That way, it doesn’t matter who wins an election, but it doesn’t matter that those who lose need to rise up violently. Because they will always be there to vote in the next election.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

Georges pyle, Opinion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, voted for many of the losing candidates in his day. It doesn’t discourage him at all.

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