Saturday, February 10, 2007

Majority Rule

Democracy and Majority Rule

By Richard E. Noble

Let’s say that there are only three people in the world - me, my one eyed perverted cousin - Screwy-Louie, and Bo Derrick. The three of us keep bumping into one another, and fighting over all sorts of things. So, we decide to establish a Democracy so as to facilitate a peaceful co-existence. The first rule of conduct that we discuss and agree upon, is that we will all agree to abide and conform our individual eccentricities to the legal vote of the majority of the participants in this our new government. I agree. My cousin, Screwy-Louis, agrees. And, Bo agrees. So everything goes fine.
But then after a couple of political gatherings, my cousin Screwy-Louie suggests that he feels that it is an imposition on the body politic that the members, of necessity, be required to wear clothing. He makes a motion that all governmental meetings be conducted in the nude. Bo votes - ‘nea’. Myself and Screwy-Louie vote ‘yea’. Of course, Bo is a Party Pooper and she argues for a bit. But then in the spirit of freedom and democracy, she agrees to attend all future meetings a la - naked as a Jaybird.
This goes great, and proceeds well for a number of meetings. But then, Screwy-Louie gets motion sickness again. He suggests that the condition or requirement of nakedness for official government meetings has caused, or has produced among some of the government members, an ‘anxiety’, or ‘discomfiture’, and he makes the motion that government representative Bo Derrick be assigned chairperson in charge of “lessening tension” and facilitating a relaxation of political anxieties among or between the other members of the ‘parliament’.
After considerable deliberation and much ‘consciousness’ rising, I second the motion. Bo, unfortunately, is the lone dissenting vote. She states her case, and gives her reasons and logic, but after a ‘re-count’ and a roll call, the vote remains the same. Bo then states that she don’t care what government don’t allow, she gonna put her clothes back on any old how.
As Bo attempts to ‘re-dress’ the grievances, the remaining members of parliament, or government discuss the situation, and come to the conclusion that the use of force - a pre-preemptive strike - in this instance of “clear and pressing danger and national security”, is of necessity. They (We) decide that the only way to get ‘action’ in this case of parliamentary impropriety on the part of the minority ‘wimp’ is to call for a red alert – aggressive action.
An attack plan is devised. The plan of action will be categorized under the secret file heading “Operation Bo-Banger Diddily-Bang Bang-Wang-er” or “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. This will be an all out, no holes barred invasion. Any rights to privacy or any other written or unwritten previous agreed to, parliamentary crap will be temporarily suspended. And there will be no cameras allowed on the floor ... or the walls or the ceilings.
Well, as you can see, if the rule of majority is the sole and utmost principle of fair, honest,democratic government some ‘body’ in this government is going to get ‘miss-represented’; or under-represented, or over-represented ... maybe. However you choose to look at it, unless Bo is well skilled in the martial arts, or kung-fu, ginsu, and tofu, she is about to have her constitutional rights violated, assaulted, and circumspected.
The ability of a majority to “tyrannize” or dominate a minority has been a criticism of Democratic rule, interpreted as “rule by the majority” or government “of the people, by the people and for the people” since the time of Socrates and Plato. In criticism of Communism, it was termed as the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat (working men with children)”. In the U.S. this dominance is often referred to as popularism or demagogery.
In the formation of the American Constitution this concept was debated vigorously and as a consequence we have a Representative Democracy with two Houses - the Senate and the House of Representative. The selection of two Senators from each state, regardless of their population, is a compromise to the ‘minority’ of smaller states and the house with random and differing numbers of representatives accorded by population was designed to satisfy the majority. Also submitted by the 'minority' as an aditional after-thought was something called "The Bill of Rights".

The Right of Franchise

[The following was extracted from: “Political and Civil Rights in the United States” forth edition Volume I – Law School Edition Emerson, Harber and Dorsen.]

“For a society which is fond of regarding itself as the world’s leading practitioner of democracy, our constitution is guilty of and embarrassing lapse - it contains no broad provision designed to safeguard the right to participate in the democratic process. When the Constitution was adopted the concept of universal suffrage was unthinkable. To many of the founding fathers the franchise was a serious matter, to be exercised only by responsible Caucasian male citizens, preferably of property ... Accordingly, in the absence of a provision in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing that “Congress shall make no law abridging the right to vote and to run for office” should come as no surprise.
“As political theory in America evolved towards a greater acceptance of the notion of universal suffrage, the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the Constitution reflected the shift in values by guaranteeing the right to vote to racial minorities, woman, and 18 to 21 -year-olds, respectively. However despite the current general acceptance of the notion that the right to vote and to run for office is central to the fabric of our political and social system, no explicit constitutional protection of the right of franchise exists.
“Lacking an obvious general doctrinal base, judicial protection of the right to vote initially centered on attempting to enforce the mandate of the Fifteenth Amendment, which provides:
The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude ... Traditionally, the equal access principle has been expressed by the Court in its most obvious doctrinal manifestation - The Equal Protection Clause.
“Prior to 1962, no right to adequate representation existed - Although one would have thought it was subsumed in general democratic political theory. Courts rationalized their refusal to assume responsibility for the proper operation of a representative democracy by labeling the problem a “political question” outside the competency of the judiciary. Thus, in the years immediately following World War II, the Supreme Court repeatedly declined to examine whether the theoretically representative nature of American democracy was a functioning reality or a pious fraud.
“As minorities have learned to their chagrin, the enunciation and implementation of the one person - one vote was not a panacea for failure to afford them adequate representation within the democratic process. Sophisticated techniques, which comply fully with rigorous mathematical equality, continue to plague attempts to insure that the representative nature of our democratic institutions accurately mirror the underlying fabric of American society.”

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