The Tyranny of the Majority

Some of you have probably seen the comparison between the 2004 Presidential Election results map and the map of the Free States and Slave States, before the Civil War. I’ve reproduced them for you here. I do not take any credit for recognizing this and I thank whomever noticed it originally.

I am struck by this comparison mainly because I have been thinking about what it means to be a liberal and what it means to be a conservative. At dictionary.com we see that liberal means:

“Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.”

Conservative, on the other hand, means:

“Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.”

So, by definition, one side embraces change and one side opposes it. At face value there is not an intrinsic better or worse view of the two but in practice, in terms of the history of this country, there certainly is. One side fought for slavery and the other side opposed it. One side fought for women’s right to vote and the other side opposed it. One side fights for civil rights, for minorities including gays, and one side fights against it. When you say you are against change you are saying everything is perfect right now, or at least that change would take us further from perfect, and this is what is so god damn perplexing about the reelection of George W. Bush. 51% of the people in this country think a change away from George W. Bush would be a bad thing. They apparently are perfectly satisfied with how things are now. That leaves 48% of us wondering what the hell they are thinking.

As has been pointed out, what they are thinking is “God, guns and gays”. They love the first two and hate the third one. Apparently they think that a “culture of life” means executing doctors who perform abortions and not being overly concerned about the 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. Apparently they think that Jesus would encourage us to deny rights and compassion to our homosexual brothers and sisters. Apparently they think that fear and bigotry are important American values.

Now I know that there are plenty of conservatives who are not religious. They see themselves as fiscal conservatives and don’t think we should reward failure in this country by having vast government safety nets. Many of them are pro-choice and support gay rights. To these people I would say two things. 1. The Republican party is no longer the party of fiscal conservatism. See my previous rant, The Myth of Republican Fiscal Conservatism. Certainly it is hard or impossible to argue that Bush is a fiscal conservative. The libertarian notion that government should not reward failure is also not fiscally conservative. Poor, sick people cost our economy much more than middle-class healthy people. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but we cannot grow our economy if we leave a large percentage of our population to poverty and sickness. Like him or not, Paul Wellstone said it perfectly: “We all do better when we all do better.” 2. I think it is entirely non-sensical for fiscal conservative/social liberals to support the Republican party because they agree with a small percentage of the platform and doom us all to the radical religious extremism that now characterizes the party. Single-issue politics, whether based on small government, gun ownership or abortion, are irrational and dangerous.

The red states in this country are completely misguided by their so-called religious values. In these states you could probably easily make being homosexual a crime punishable by law. You could probably pass referendums that set civil rights for minorities back by decades. You could easily pass ballot measures making Christianity the state religion of the United States of America. This is what appalls the blue states and the rest of the free world about this election. It is what Thomas Jefferson called the tyranny of the majority. We are now being held hostage by the least tolerant, least educated, least compassionate and most self-righteous 51% of the people of this country and it is completely understandable why the blue states and the rest of the world are scared shitless.

The Tyranny of the Majority

9 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Majority

  1. Yes, I agree, some people on both sides have thought these things through to some extent. Many have not. So while you do a great job of explaining your rationale, I would think you would also agree that many, many voters are single-issue reactionaries who do, in fact, vote against their ideals. God, guns and gays sums it up pretty well.

    Now to the issues:

    1. Global Warming. The last time we had runaway green house effect it took 60,000 years to correct itself. The bottom line on this issue is that if you are wrong, life on earth could literally end and if I’m wrong we will have wasted some money. The Bushies are ignoring a growing consensus of scientific fact because they aren’t willing to deal with the problem.

    2. Christians. Yes, many Christians are fine folks who do not want to do away with the separation of Church and State. On the other hand, there are many, many Christians who openly state that the separation of church and state is a myth and should be done away with. The gay rights issue is opposed because of the Bible. I have no problem with anyone of any religion provided they respect my right to have no religions laws as our civil laws.

    3. Gay Marriage. Kerry was pro civil union the whole time. Bush is anti-civil union even though he did say once that he was for it. The Republican platform is against it. It shouldn’t be.

    4. Abortion. I agree, abortion is not good. Yet the right also lobbies against the proliferation of birth control. We should be able to all agree that preventing abortions is the goal. The Republicans, again, want no abortion and (virtually) no birth control. They want us to be good moral Christians and not have sex. Dream on.

    5. Environment. I mentioned global warming above but you bring up the issue in a broader context as well — this balance between the economy and the environment. The problem is, we are way out of balance. On Kyoto the Bush administration said they will not sign a treaty that will cost America a single job. Is that balance? We have gone backwards on mercury emissions. Is that balanced? We are still not creating incentives for renewal energy sources at the same time that we continue to create incentives for coal burning. It is not balanced and almost all Americans agree that it should be.

    6. Big Business. Yes, I agree, business is good. We need to have a country that encourages successful commerce. Business should not be the enemy. The only problem is what Nader says: big business has way too much influence over government. Government should be protecting our common interests, not solely the interests of the rich and powerful. I am shocked, personally, that the rich and powerful WANT to own the government. I would think they would be willing to put America first. They are not. Business should be a partner in protecting the common interest but, by their very definition, their interests are only maximizing shareholder value. We are doomed if we allow big business to run amok. This is the very role of government.

    Finally, Kerry had every right to protest the Vietnam war — he was there and the things he said were true. Have you heard his testimony to Congress? It is amazing and honest and correct. That war was wrong and it had to stop. I admire his courage. This whole notion that protesting wars hurts our soldiers is wrong.

    Again, I think we could find a lot of common ground on these issues but it is also clear that we are focused on different “facts” on each of these issues. In a way, this is the problem.

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  2. micadelic says:

    There’s plenty of fodder there for you guys to pick me apart. I’m a closet pro-lifer; I’m ignorant about the environment; Why are we afraid of Christians? Are you kidding me, a little thing called the inquisition, etc, etc, etc. Let me head some of it off at the pass.

    In case I was not clear, the government should in no way interfere with a woman’s right to choose. That does not mean there should be abortion on demand for everyone, including 13 year olds (children, not women) without parental consent. And of course they shouldn’t have to get permission from a father who raped them, duh. We should, however, as a society do more to try and prevent the situations, lifestyles, etc. that create the demand for abortions.

    Before anyone mentions global warming, the Kyoto Treaty, etc. I am quite convinced that global warming is real. I am extremely skeptical that it is caused by man. I read something somewhere (sorry, don’t have time to site sources) that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are as high as they were like 50,000 years ago when the earth went through another warming period. Where were the SUVs and factories then? The world has gone through huge fluctuations in temperature throughout the ages with no help from General Motors. I think trying to blame global warming on big business is part of an agenda of the left who seem intent on vilifying big business. Sorry folks, without big business, there would be no economy. Does big business need some regulation to keep from getting out of control? Absolutely.

    Bottom line guys, these are my opinions, they are educated, informed and thought out. They also may be wrong. That’s called humility. All I ask is that you also consider the possibility that all of your opinions and conclusions may not be absolutely unimpeachable. If you can’t do that, you are no better than the self-righteous right-wing religious fanatics that you fear so much!

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  3. micadelic says:

    Thank you all so very much but I am an educated citizen. All of these issues are so much more nuanced than you all seem to realize. Left good, right bad. Maybe I’m just older, the older you get, the more gray areas you can discern.

    Abortion: It’s the pragmatist in me that make me lean pro-choice. You notice how it’s never referred to as pro-abortion or pro-death. I think abortion is a horrible thing. I know woman now in their forties who had abortions and now view it as the worst mistake they ever made. I once got a girlfriend pregnant who wanted an abortion, I let her know my feelings on it and now that one-time “indistinguishable blob of cells” is my 14 year old son who I wouldn’t trade for anything. So, even though I think abortion is a terrible thing, I think it comes down to a moral choice and I don’t believe, as the old saw goes, that you can legislate morality. You have to understand that a lot of people consider abortion out and out murder and I guess I have some sympathy for that point of view. After all, if you believe it to be murder, wouldn’t trying to make it illegal be your duty? I’m just saying that you have to respect the people who hold that opinion and more importantly, you have to respect their right to have that opinion. I guess I just don’t use that one issue as a litmus test. I really don’t see Roe being overturned, too much pro-choice sentiment in the house/senate not to mention the overwhelming majority of Americans are pro-choice.

    Gay Marriage: Seems to me that most Kerry supporters are in denial about his position on that issue, which is exactly the same as Bush’s’… Kerry is against gay marriage and for civil unions. Maybe you all think he is just saying that to get elected but that is, in fact, his stated position. I am in agreement with Bush and Kerry on this issue.

    Environment: I don’t think Bush or his policies are anti-environment as much as they are pro-business. I think he strikes a better balance betweens the needs of business and preserving the environment. For example, I think it is possible to log forests in a manner which both serves the needs of business and actually better manages the forest. Mismanagement of the forests have led to massive wildfires and resulting soil erosion, reduction of habitat, etc. Also, it would be possible to drill oil in an environmentally safe manner as well, reducing (granted, not by much) our dependence on foreign sources.

    Christianity: Why are so many people so afraid of Christians? Even though I don’t consider myself to be one, I’m probably in the vast minority among the people where I live, in my age group, etc. They don’t scare me, they seem like good decent folks with at least some sort of moral compass. If the left continues to denigrate Christians and Christianity, they’ll never win a national election. Bush seems to me like a Christian man who’s decisions and direction are informed by his faith. I don’t see him trying to turn our country into some sort of Christian theocracy. Are there religious nut jobs out there, absolutely, they’re on the fringe. There are also left-wing nut jobs out their on your fringe. People who want a socialist society, people who actually want to limit personal incomes, people who want to absolutely remove all incentives for succeeding.

    One more thing, I also said in my original post that we all see things through our own filters. I’m old enough to remember 1971 when a young man named John Kerry was accusing our soldiers of war crimes while some of these soldiers were still being held by the Viet Cong. Were there war crimes being committed? Probably. Do atrocities occur in all wars? Yes. Were the war crimes committed by our troops grossly overstated? In my opinion, yes. Was it proper for Kerry to make those kinds of claims when thousands of our young men were still being held? Absolutely not. He was a political opportunist then and he is one now. At that time, I was a 12, 13 year old kid who’s father was in the Air Force. I had friends who’s dads were fighter pilots who flew missions in Viet Nam. To me, Kerry had no business being commander in chief.

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  4. chad says:

    There’s an interesting study that concludes that the supporters of Bush do not have a sound grasp on his positions (I am not implying that micadelic doesn’t know; I was just reminded of this study because of Michael’s last post).

    Anyhow here’s the link:
    http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Pres_Election_04/Report10_21_04.pdf

    What I think this illustrates is the general divide in this country on how people vote. I was pretty sure that Kerry was going to win. Why? Becuase of all of Bush’s policies, and especially the war in Iraq.

    But I think what this study illustrates is that a lot of people are voting solely on this “character” thing–e.g. “Bush is a good guy, therefore he will do the right thing.” I think what I’ve realized is that I am really not talking on the same frequency of many Bush supporters. Rattling off stats and arguing about complicated foreign policy situations was like a different language, because they really did not seem to care; rather, their response was usually something like “That Kerry, you don’t know where he stands!”–an argument of character.

    The irony of the matter is that, if that study I posted is accurate, the campaign whose whole platform was essentially “you don’t know where Kerry stands: vote for us” received the vast majority of their votes from people who really didn’t know where they stood.

    I work in a University, and a surprising amount of people (not the Professors heh) voted for Bush. One of them said something to the effect of, “We should have attacked Iraq sooner I think. Right after those Iraqis hit the trade center.” I’m sure this sort of ignorance exists on both sides of a debate, but I was basically speechless on how someone could be so ignorant of such an important issue–one which I presume they used as a justification for their vote in the election!

    The first step in actually having a functioning democracy is, therefore, to have EDUCATED CITIZENS. Until we have a culture that appreciates education for something other than a means of getting a job, our supposedly functioning democracy will be stuck in neutral.

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  5. There is a lot in your message so forgive me for pulling out this bit. You said: ” I do have a little problem being referred to as part of “ the least tolerant, least educated, least compassionate and most self-righteous 51% of the people” though.”

    You also said: “I am pro choice, I am not a Christian, I think the environment needs to be protected, gay people should not be discrminated against, all people should have health care, be fed, clothed and housed, etc, etc, etc.”

    My problem is that you voted for a person who is anti-choice, an evangelical Christian, is (based on his actions) an enemy of the environment and against civil unions (and other rights) for gays. Something in your philosophy allowed you to vote for someone who is against many of your views. You are not alone — many, many people voted for Bush even though he does not represent a lot of their views. Given what you say above it seems to me you should have voted for Kerry. Instead you sided with people who have no compassion for gays, an uneducated view of our impact on the environment and a self-righteous attitude that their religious laws should be our civil laws. You should be lumped in with those people if you vote for their man.

    I don’t mean this to be harsh — I am seeking a rational and friendly debate, but IMHO you support a president who has views antithetical to your own.

    I’ll try to anticipate your response and say: Kerry is not more “big government” or far left-wing of Bush, certainly not to a degree that should overpower our concern for the issue above.

    Thanks!
    Michael

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  6. micadelic says:

    Most excellent Mr. K! I too knew that you would point out exactly what you did, that the liberal view has prevailed. To some extent, these discussions become a little bit like tic-tac-toe. When I mark down my “x” in the corner square, I know exactly where my opponent will place his “o.” I’m glad you enjoy my posts, I was happy to find you had created this blog and I had read every post before I posted, so I knew what I was getting into!

    And yes, I did have to plug at least one of my nostrils to vote for Mr. Bush but I just could not identify with Mr. Kerry and I was frankly turned off by many of his more rabid supporters, who ironically (imho), weren’t so much for Kerry as they were against Bush. Those people would have much preferred Dean or Nader or Kucinich for that matter.

    The only point I wish to make is that if the left takes this tack that the people who voted for Bush are either misguided, simple, or ideologues, they are missing the greater truth of what has happened. As a former Democrat, my feeling is not that I have abandoned the Democrat party, but they have abandoned me by moving so far to the left. It is perfectly possible that an intelligent, informed, and compassionate person would vote for Bush. Please… we just disagree, I don’t think people who voted for Kerry are stupid, but I could compose some clever, rhetorical diatribe about why they are. Please extend to me the same courtesy because just lobbing incendiary words back and forth gets us nowhere (not that you were, but plenty of verbal explosive have been launched on both sides of the greater debate)! I do have a little problem being referred to as part of “ the least tolerant, least educated, least compassionate and most self-righteous 51% of the people” though.

    I absolutely agree with lolife on many, many things, I am pro choice, I am not a Christian, I think the environment needs to be protected, gay people should not be discrminated against, all people should have health care, be fed, clothed and housed, etc, etc, etc. I think there are just fundamental disagreements on how we do it. For example, I don’t think the way to lead people out of poverty is to just put generation after generation of them on welfare. In my view, that is it’s own form of slavery and some would say an incidious way to keep them voting for the Democrats. Also, I don’t think the way to spur an economy is to put more layers of government regulation on how businesses should operate. I think our tax system is out of control and needs to be reformed and simplified.

    P.S. I love Barack Obama, there’s a guy I could vote for. Very intelligent, not divisive, he understands the points of view of the right and the left and he is very conciliatory. Not a flamethrower like Kennedy or Sharpton, or Jackson. It’s people like that who will bring people like me back into the Democrat fold.

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  7. I’d like to add one more comment in light of micadelic’s comments. The main problem we face right now is that the Republicans and the Democrats don’t represent us anymore. I would bet that micadelic and I would agree on many, many issues but there is no party that represents these shared positions. I know a lot of people held their nose as they voted for Bush and a lot held their nose as they voted for Kerry. If we had a new party that was socially liberal and fiscally conservative with balanced views on foreign policy and a commitment that government must serve the public interest, we could have a vast majority in this country.

    Michael

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  8. I always enjoy your comments.

    I knew someone would point out which side was Democrat and which side was Republican in these issues. That is not my point. My point is that one side was embracing change (the Liberal point of view) and one side was resisting change (the Conservative point of view). This is a fact, too, my friend. What are you really saying above is that the Liberals have been right all along on all these issues! I agree!

    Another fact is that Conservatives are against gay rights. That will join the list of things like those above: slavery, women’s right to vote, civil rights, etc. Gay rights will prevail because they are constitutionallly protected. Marriage, as far as the State is concerned, is a _civil_ union, not a religious union. I don’t care what churches choose to do or not do but I do care what our government chooses to do and discriminating against anyone, homosexuals included, is completely wrong. Conservatives have always been wrong on these issues and they are still wrong.

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  9. micadelic says:

    “One side fought for slavery and the other side opposed it.”

    Yeah, the side that fought against slavery was the Republican side. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. There is a long, long history of bigotry in the south, mostly by southern democrats.

    “One side fought for women’s right to vote and the other side opposed it.”

    Yes, the deciding vote for the 19th Amendment was made by Tennessee State legislator, Harry Burn, who was a Republican. Ratification of the 19th Amendment was held up for quite a while (i.e. defeated in the Senate numerous times), by southern Democrats, not Republicans.

    Republican presidents have had more women and minorities in their cabinets than Democrat presidents. I see a lot of “talkin’ the talk” by Democrats but very little “walkin’ the walk.”

    Just a little fact check, Mr. K.

    Also, I am not less tolerant, less compassionate, less educated nor more self-righteous than the really smart liberal people. There’s plenty of intolerance, self righteousness and ignorance to go around on both sides.

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