Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tyranny of the Minority

"The moment draws closer when all 100 United States senators must decide a basic question of principle, whether to restore the precedent of an up or down vote...or to enshrine a new tyranny of the minority into the Senate rules,'' Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said on Monday.

I find this statement ridiculous and ironic. The fillibuster is designed to protect against a Tyranny of the Majority.

In his book First Democracy, Paul Woodruff explains why a tyranny of the majority, also known as "mob rule," can be such a problem:
"Mob rule is plainly a kind of tyranny; it frightens and excludes and puts the minority under the absolute power of the majority. And the tyranny of the majority kills freedom as dead as any other form of tyranny. It's not freedom if you have to join the majority in order to feel that you are free. Defenders of democracy say that it puts restraints on the power of majorities, primarily the rule of law. If the majority rises above the law, it is playing the part of tyrant. Also, in the interests of harmony, most democracies have devised practical methods of ensuring that the interests of minorities are not trampled. The effect of rule by a majority party is rarely democratic, whatever ideals the party claims to represent. When majority rule is absolute, as it is in safe voting districts, the party is able to keep many interests and issues out of discussion. "

TRIVIA: The record for the longest individual (fillibuster) speech goes to South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.


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