Minority Rules — By John Reed
Regular readers will remember I’ve written before about our nation being founded by persecuted minorities. We may have rose-colored hindsight about the British landowners financing some of the original colonies, but the convicts, debtors, indentured servants, and slaves who followed set the tone for an intense distrust of authority.
So, by the time the revolt against the king of England was successful, those who faced the task of creating a new government had a pretty good idea of how not to do it. By setting up three separate branches, they insured no single group could run the government. And then they went even further.
The legislative branch was broken into two sections to be certain smaller states weren’t overwhelmed by the policies of the bigger ones. While the House of Representatives reflected the population imbalances of each state, the Senate served to balance that. Rhode Islanders got the same two senators to speak for their state as New Yorkers.
But the writers of the constitution weren’t through. Their vision of a limited federal government included various responsibilities and rights reserved exclusively for each state. And finally, they created the Electoral College, thus providing balance in presidential elections.
Losers always want to change the rules, blame the status quo. We’ve seen this in recent years by both Republicans and Democrats. And now the free-for-all about the Senate filibuster rule.
Put in place to prevent legislation passing by a simple majority, it requires most laws to pass with 60 votes. The rule has been in place (with various tweaks) since the early 1800’s, and it gives the minority party great power in debating legislation.
Frustrated by their inability to ram through contentious legislation, the current party in power has tried to end the filibuster rule. Fortunately their tactic has been thwarted by courageous members of the their party. But is it courage or simply pragmatism? Likely sooner than later (maybe even this November) the majority will become once again the minority. I expect they may then want the protections the filibuster provides.
The same holds true for the Electoral College and all the other protections the Constitution offers for those who are not in power. The only certainty is change. The electoral pendulum swings both ways, but our system ensures both sides have a say.
This system has worked for centuries. Why mess with what works?