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The Tyranny of the Majority

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The Tyranny of the Majorityby Steve Pashuck

As America’s most recent election season rolled around, its citizens were able to witness democracy at its finest, or some might argue at its worst.  Whatever your perspective is on its finer points, the pistons that drive our democracy were churning at high torque in the recently completed election cycle.  In the midst of this political intensity, it is unlikely that the average American took any time to consider just exactly how and why our country’s democratic principles were a major factor in the election process.  So I’d like to take some time out to do that…

The Founding Fathers of our nation were fearful of democracy; they often wrote about the dangers of it.  John Adams even labeled democracy as the “tyranny of the majority”. It was the minority that in fact pushed our colonial society to a war with England to gain its own independence and achieve the liberty and justice that we all enjoy today. The Founding Fathers understood that it was not only the majority that needed protection, but the minority did as well; they had the wherewithal to realize that the majority had the advantage in voting scenarios.

In the election between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, it was the “undecided” minority that would ultimately determine the election.  The media could not stop talking about the small “undecided” percentage of American voters.  The candidates subsequently realized that in order to win the election, they would have to win the “undecided” and in order to win the “undecided”, they spent a record breaking $4.2 billion on trying to persuade them, the majority of coming in the form of commercial advertisements. There was no doubt that the “undecided” played the largest role in the election, but few questioned, “who are the undecided voters?” Ultimately, these were people who we knew very little about.  Questions about how much attention they paid to politics, the news, and political propaganda were tough to answer.  Still, without knowing if it would ever reach them, our candidates spent $4.2 billion on them in political ads. Whether or not these people even understood the difference between a candidate who supported a restructuring of our current tax plan and a candidate who stood behind his controversial restructuring of our nation’s health care is a great uncertainty.  What do we know about them then?  We know that they are members of a democracy and, as such, they are allowed an ante into the political pot.  Simply put, that is democracy.

Is it possible that those who say these undecided voters are dunces who are not suited for deciding between whole wheat and rye bread on a sandwich, much less a president? Yes.  Does that change their right to a vote? No.

It’s likely that our founding fathers intended to have democracy delegated to individuals with high morals, high values, and high intelligence…but that was in the late 18th century, a world much different than today’s world.  Today, our country employs democracy in every which way it can.  The premise is still the same as it was in 1776; get people to vote on the policies of the candidate that will pave the way for our future, not on the political propaganda of the present.  Regardless if you are a democrat or a republican, think our country’s in the dumps or on the up, that is the true design of democracy.  The simple fact is that without it, we fail not only as citizens, but as a free people as well.

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