January 16, 2023

Tyranny of Minorities

Tyranny of Minorities

We hear a great deal today about the “protection of democracy.” For Democrats, it is all about voter suppression and election denial, and for Republicans, election fraud. But the great irony, and far greater threat to democracy, comes from both political parties as they routinely thwart the will of the majority of American people to satisfy their primary base voters and the special interests that finance their parties. Neither really give a tinker’s damn about what the majority of Americans want.

Case in point. In 2019, Texas passed a near total ban on abortion after fertilization. The law became effective on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. There is an exception for a serious health risk to the mother but there is no exception for cases of rape or incest.

A recent University of Texas poll showed that only 13% of Texans thought there should be no exception in cases of rape or incest. 87% supported such an exception up to six weeks into the pregnancy and 64% up to twelve weeks. Only 29% supported the exception at any time during the pregnancy.

Yet, the Texas legislature passed a bill without a rape/incest exception, notwithstanding that 87% of Texans think the law should include one. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in an interview over the weekend that he did not see much support for such an exception (link to interview, ~6:00). How can that be described as anything other than undemocratic?

Of course, the same is true with Democrats. Polling has consistently shown that a supermajority of Americans opposes President Biden’s immigration policies since he was elected. Nonetheless, it took him two years to even acknowledge there was a problem and then offer only half-hearted measures.

Notwithstanding the popular media narrative that Americans are hopelessly divided and polarized, the truth is a majority of Americans agree with centrist, commonsense policies. Morris Fiorina, in his book, Unstable Majorities, uses American National Election Studies Survey data going back over five decades to show that “normal Americans continue to be centrists.”

Image used by permission of Okefenokee Glee & Perloo, Inc.

Both Democrats and Republicans are correct: Our democracy is under siege. But it is not under siege from voter suppression, election denial, or election fraud. It is under siege because our historic two-party system has been perverted by primaries that seek to discourage participation by anyone but “true believers”, by computer-driven gerrymandering, and by a media industry that profits by pandering to the extremes of the ideologic spectrum. As Jason Altmire so vividly explained in his book Dead Center, any elected official that tries to buck the system is punished, frequently by being voted out of office by primary voters. As result, our two legacy parties represent the views of the voters that show up for their primaries, not the views of the majority of Americans.

When it comes to threats to our democracy, both parties should be reciting the words of the great American philosopher, Pogo (aka Walt Kelly): “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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