Saturday, October 05, 2013

Majority Rule in Danger?

Many commentators have correctly identified the GOP Shutdown of the federal government and the threat to drive the government into default as being a threat to majority rule.  And it is; it is an attempt to thwart the will of the majority with the tactic of taking the basic operations of government as hostage.

The quibble that I have is this:  the United States has never had majority rule.  In the beginning, whole sectors of the population were excluded from democratic participation and voting, and even now that situation persists: convicted felons, non-citizens (11 million undocumented people, many of them adults, live and work and pay taxes in the United States but cannot vote), etc.  In addition, complicated registration procedures and regulations, including weekday voting, further restrict participation.

The point is that the nation is moving slowly toward democracy and majority rule.  And when the will of the majority actually drives public policy, the country will operate in a very different way.  It is clear that the majority of the people want many things that are declared politically unfeasible today.  But the majority cannot work its will without a political apparatus to elect officials who represent them.  Democracy requires not only universal access to the ballot, but political organization and mobilization.

The Obama coalition brings us closer to democratic, majority rule, mostly because it mobilizes more people to vote and participate.  Using social media and technology, it has found ways to activate more people.  The Obama coalition threatens minority rule, and that is why it is being resisted so desperately.  To those who really do rule, majority rule is the danger; it is an existential threat.


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