Freedom From The Majority
This past week, my wife’s family dealt with the passing of one of the last members of the “Greatest Generation.” Born in the depth of the Great Depression, Rick Jones was a prime example of his time. Strong-willed and fiercely independent, he quit school before high school to go to work. His experiences were legion, from the Alaska pipeline to wildcatting in Siberia. When his children encouraged him to retire and settle down, he was having none of it, and spent his last years here, helping his favorite niece doing farm chores and maintenance work.
Like most of his kind, he didn’t have much use for politics: he was too busy working to worry too much about who was yelling about what on the television. His family all hailed from the West Coast, and were good people, despite having probably never met a Republican nor eaten any fried food. A week of good old Southern hospitality fixed that!
While I was thinking about his life and his basic desire to be left alone to do his own thing, I was reminded that pretty much summed up the reasons our country’s founders came here: to be left alone. The Mayflower’s Pilgrims, William Penn’s Quakers, John Wesley’ Methodists…the list goes on. Each group was fleeing a situation where the majority of their society was making life difficult for them.
It was only natural that their descendants had a deep distrust in the concept of “majority rule.” Having just thrown off the yoke of King George’s monarchy, the participants in the Constitutional Convention weren’t about to produce a document that traded one form of despotism for another. The resulting document contains many compromises and even more checks of power.
States were granted more power than the federal government in many areas. While Lincoln settled the issue of secession militarily, a good argument can be made that the legal question is still up in the air. As recently as 2009, the Georgia State Senate took up the issue, and many other states have their own secessionist movements. Why, even now? Basically to be left alone in one way or another.
The most misunderstood constitutional compromise was the Electoral College. In order to get their approval of the Constitution, small states had to be given assurance that they would have a balanced voice in presidential elections. Two centuries later, that concern is even more valid. Maps showing the 2016 presidential election results by county or precinct paint an interesting picture: thin slices on each coast, a few urban centers, and the “Plantation Crescent” provided the majority of the voting totals for Hillary. The vast majority of the country by area voted the other way.
How many Georgians would have wanted the good folks who live 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean telling them they wanted the country to be run according to their way of thinking? Thanks to the Electoral College, we, like Rick, can be left alone.
Freedom From The Majority