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The Tyranny of the Majority

The American Historical Review, vol. 11, 1906, p. 618: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it” [sic]. I would add that we got a representative republic that is uniquely designed with checks and balances to assure the separation of powers.

These days, there is a lot of talk about structuring the U.S. Constitution to be more democratic and reflect the popular vote. This concerns me deeply, and I feel it should concern all readers - regardless of on which side of the political fence they may stand.

The proposed changes are:

1. Appoint senators based on a state’s population

(Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)

2. Eliminate the Electoral College

(Eliminate Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution)


Since childhood, popular culture conditioned us to equate democracy with freedom and fairness. After all, there is nothing fairer than everyone having a voice. While democracy allows everyone to have a voice, it does not allow every voice to be heard. In a nutshell, a pure democracy leads to a democratic dictatorship, where the majority dictates to the minority. If America’s founders chose to go that route, which they did not, then the voices of women, people of color, and countless others would not have been heard; and they would not be heard today.

Yes, it seems unfair that a president is not elected by the popular vote, and the population of larger states get short changed when it comes to the Senate. Fair however, as evidenced in the previous paragraph, is often not just. This is why the U.S. is a representative republic based on democratic principles and not a democracy. The country’s founders understood that democracy must be tempered with representation. Consequently, much of our constitution was purposely designed to be un-democratic. Our constitution was designed to be an intricate mechanism of weights and counterweights. In Congress, the House is the democratic branch that represents the people, and the Senate is the counterweight that represents the states. The US. Constitution limits the majority, while providing safeguards for minorities and the liberties of the individual.


An excellent example was voiced by a popular radio personality. In his example, a group of nine people (five men and four women) form a true democracy. In this democracy, the men propose a vote to legalize the abuse of women. The Five men vote ‘yah’ and the four women vote ‘nay.’ In that democracy, the abuse of women would now be legal – end of story. The minority (in this case the women) had a voice, but their voice did not carry enough weight to prevent the majority from passing a bad law.


Let me take this example a step further. Let us say the five men and four women started a country of their own. The men lived in one state, and the women lived in another state. However, instead of a democracy, their country (like the U.S.) was a representative republic based on democratic principles. Since the population is so low, every citizen is a member of the House (the democratic branch). A male congressman proposes a bill to make the abuse of women legal. The five male congressmen vote ‘yah.’ The four female congresswomen vote ‘nay.’ The bill passes the House (the democratic branch) and is sent to the Senate (the republic branch). In the Senate, the male state has two votes, and the female state has two votes. The two male senators vote ‘yah.’ The two female senators vote ‘nay.’ The bill is stalemated. The minority (in this case the women) had a voice and their voice was significant enough to prevent the abuse of power.

The same is true of the Electoral College, which was devised to assure that a wealthy and powerful group, or state, would not manipulate citizens into electing a president of the group’s choice. In this case, the voices of those who are not wealthy and powerful are given influence.

Let me conclude by stating that the U. S. Constitution was designed to give minorities a voice and the influence to guide our nation. Let’s not change that.


As always, I welcome your comments and/or corrections. This article is about freedom, not politics, so please do not make this a partisan debate and keep your comments civil.


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