Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What's a majority anyway?

Regarding “When a majority is not a majority” Commentary in the Providence Journal, December 26, Dan K. Thomasson wrote about the effect of Senate rules, especially the filibuster, on the Senate's performance  He feels, correctly I believe, that they make a mockery of the principle of majority rule.

The issue goes deeper than Senate rules however.  The problem lies within the party system itself.  Our founders had serious concerns about the political party system.

      “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
JOHN ADAMS  Oct. 2, 1789 

     “Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.’

They would be horrified to know how much worse it is than they feared.  Our elected “leaders” appear not to have the courage to do anything that might risk party disapproval. When we see a party leader on TV before a microphone surrounded by party members, one really sees faceless people playing follow the leader. Rarely does a party member have the guts to stray from the party line.

That being the case we could save an enormous amount of money if instead of people, we choose numbers according to party.  Each voter in electing senators would simply  have two votes - two Democrats, two Republicans, one of each, one or none;  not people, just numbers. That seems to be what we essentially have in the Senate anyway.

The use of the filibuster, to prevent the majority party from essentially riding roughshod over the minority, is laudable and in keeping with the very idea of the Senate, to give each state equal representation by providing two votes per state regardless of size. 

But it has been perverted in its application and simply must be corrected, now. Today, just threatening a filibuster effectively changes the meaning of the word majority from 51 votes to 60 votes of 100 member senate.  

H.L. Menken was right:  "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."