Opinion: Response: “Protection against tyranny of the majority”

Posted on Oct 17 2018 - 5:50am by Reagan Meredith

Re: “A government of the 16 percent” (Oct. 5)

Jacob Gambrell wrote a piece arguing that the U.S. Senate is undemocratic and advocating for the reform of the Constitution itself to make it more democratic. While his argument is thoughtful and rational, I’d like to respond in disagreement.

To begin, it is correct that the Constitution was a document that the founders didn’t necessarily like, but it was a compromise. The Constitution allows for diversity of thought, and that’s why Madison and Hamilton didn’t like it — but for different reasons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

My overarching contention with Gambrell’s argument is that the only way to reform the Constitution to be more democratic is to abolish it wholesale. The United States is a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Article IV, Section 4 says, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republic Form of Government…”

This leads to the creation of the Senate.

Federalist No. 10, written by James Madison, was an argument for minimizing factions. Madison defined said factions as, “A number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

The two methods of curing the mischiefs of factions are removing their causes and controlling their effects. Madison goes on to say that there are two methods of removing a faction’s causes: by destroying liberty, “which is essential to its existence,” or by giving every citizen the same opinions, the same passions and the same interests. Both options are impractical and would be a dangerous possibility in a true democracy.

So, in a republic, we must control factions’ effects. As Madison states later in the essay, “A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.”

In other words, the Constitution protects against the tyranny of the majority. This is precisely why we have the electoral college and the Senate. Smaller states didn’t want their authority taken away because of their smaller populations, so the Senate was necessary for these states to ratify.

Dr. Pradheep Shanker, a conservative commentator, is vocal this issue.

“I stand by this. Our country is extremely diverse, and the only way you restructure the country the way liberals are suggesting…is to end the Republic,” Shanker recently tweeted.

Gambrell makes the quantitative argument that government, especially the Senate, doesn’t reflect popular opinion because of how few people can elect a majority to the Senate. While all of this is true, the Constitution was drafted and ratified with the same circumstances.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post points out that at the time, Virginia had 12 times as many people as Delaware. Moreover, the difference between the most populous state and least populous state—California and Wyoming—is smaller than it has been for most of the past 150 years.

My friend Jacob Gambrell is correct; the Constitution doesn’t give us a democracy, but it does give us a republic. And although the Senate has its own issues, without it, the republic is dead.

Reagan Meredith is a junior public policy major from Monroe, Louisiana.