A Tyranny of the Minority
We should consider the Constitutional framework installed by the Founders to gain a level of clarity as to how our reality is such that the few are able to dictate public policy to the many
Rann Miller | Contributing Editor
In light of recent Supreme Court decisions that include police being exempt from announcing Miranda rights upon arrest, the ability to conceal carry a firearm, the ability to challenge wrongful convictions stemming from poor legal counsel, and the overturning of the Roe decision, folks all over social media and television media—and also Democratic politicians including President Biden — have encouraged those in disagreement with those decisions to vote in November. And, they’re right, we should vote.
We must also take up other tactics, including protests like boycotting and divesting from the institutions in our society, similar to the plight of our Palestinian brothers and sisters resisting maltreatment by the Israeli government and military, but I digress.
To be clear, a majority of Americans agree abortion should be legal, believe there should be universal background checks, and are more concerned with access to voting versus voter fraud. Yet, Supreme Court decisions driven by a conservative majority fly in the face of public sentiment, Congress - due to heavy Republican use of the filibuster in the Senate - refuses to pass laws that reflect the public sentiment, and the White House seems either inept or unwilling to throw its weight around to secure the will of the people.
So much for checks and balances.
In this moment, it may be worthwhile to consider the Constitutional framework installed by the Founders to gain a level of clarity as to how our reality is such that the few are able to dictate public policy to the many. While the Founders were concerned with tyranny of the majority, what the majority is suffering from is tyranny of the minority.
The Founders of the settler project that is the United States created a system of checks and balances to prevent a tyranny of the majority. As a result of their concerns, they settled on forging a representative government whereby elected representatives govern on behalf of the people who elected them. That means we elect representatives to create the laws, we elect a president to administer government and those people we vote for decide on the members of the Supreme Court.
To prevent tyranny of any branch of government, those branches were made co-equal.
Other “safeguards” include a bi-cameral Congress (the House of Representatives and Senate) so that neither house has an upper hand over another and the Electoral College. This was done because a true democracy (or “popular vote”) would facilitate the very tyranny the Founders feared. In Federalist 51, James Madison said:
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.
With all that said, we must ask ourselves (1) who the Founders were, and (2) what was the majority they feared tyranny from?
Make no mistake, the Founders were white nationalists and they “founded” the United States as a nation for White people, with men as the ruling class. The humanity of Indigenous peoples, African peoples and women (whether Indigenous, African or White) was “negotiated” by these White Anglo-Saxon Protestant landowners.
Who was the majority these folks feared? Anyone or anything that threatened the interests of white nationalists. The United States was founded with enslavement in mind and even if a founder wasn’t an enslaver, they permitted the institution. For enslavers like Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and any other enslaver founder, a “safeguard” such as the 3/5ths Compromise in the Constitution secured their interests and their power.
The 3/5ths Compromise explains why 10 of the 16 presidents during the Antebellum were from states where Africans were enslaved.
It is quite clear from the history that protecting the United States from a tyranny of the majority traditionally has to do with protecting against majority backlash of white nationalism. It is true for the past and true for the present. I am sure moderate and conservative pundits and commentators would vehemently disagree with me, citing that the safeguards of the Constitution are designed to ensure that our system of government is fair and balanced. However, the will of the people is usurped by the tyranny of the minority; a white nationalist minority that make up the Republican Party.
Consider the following.
For example, two thirds of Americans live within the 100-mile border zone of the country. Thirteen states do not fall along the border zone; only two of these states went blue in the 2020 presidential election. Twenty-two senators from these states are Republican and only four are Democrat (Democratic senators are from the two blue states in 2020). The average percentage of White people residing in these states is 75% - according to the 2020 Census.
These thirteen states only represent 14 percent of the nation’s population, yet Republicans from these states hold 22 of 100 senate seats (1/5th) and sent the majority of its 87 electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. One can argue these numbers don’t represent tyranny of any kind. But those numbers bolster whatever Republican representation exists in states that touch the boarder zone.
Some may not like my saying the Republican Party is a white nationalist party. But between the actions of people like Greg Abbott (TX), Ron DeSantis (FL), and Doug Ducey (AZ), along with laws Republican legislatures are creating in various states and recent exit polling data (See 2020 and 2021), it’s hard to make a case that it’s not.
This is what tyranny of the minority looks like in 2022: inaction in Congress due to an equally divided Congress as well as a 6-3 conservative court created by a Republican Senate Majority Leader and a former President who failed to win the popular vote.
I highly doubt that the Founders were fortune tellers. However, their framing of a national government was designed to protect their interests … safeguards that would survive emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement, and now the prospects of a minority white reality.
The Founders were certainly not perfect, but neither were they fools.