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Old 08-18-2009, 07:17 PM   #1
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Direct Democracy in Relation to Minorities and Religion

I do not want this to turn into a thread about gay marriage itself. I am simply using it as a point.

In a time where people often complain about government being too big, I know what I'm about to say will sound odd. Now I'm no political scholar, but something about Proposition 8 struck me as very wrong last year. Something about the way the system works.

When the Founding Fathers forged this nation, many of them were aware of something called majority tyranny. The concept is that the majority's interests are so far above the interests of the minority that it creates a sort of tyranny by the people. According to some, people were supposedly selfish by nature. Hamilton himself did not trust that people could work together in the best interests of the whole; he proposed a monarchy! Although this didn't happen, we all learned in our government classes that checks and balances were put into place to control everyone, including the people themselves.

I wonder though, with California's direct initiative/referendum system, are there any checks on the people? Is there anything in place here to prevent the majority tyranny? The governor was openly opposed to Proposition 8, but took no action. He's voted into office by the people and can be impeached as well; he couldn't endure the popularity hit of taking a stance. Same goes for members of our legislature. Historically, it's been up to the court to stand up to inequality (Perez v. Sharp for interracial marriage, Brown v. Board for desegregation). But uh, our court is elected on by the people and have terms. They received impeachment threats for if Prop. 8 were to be challenged! So when the governor, the legislature, and the court are all either powerless or afraid to act, what then?

Now, "majority rules" is the very definition of a democracy and we've been seeing things like this for years. The minority is just forced to suck it up. But I find this case to be different; there was a factor in this election that made it absolutely unacceptable.

What furthers my questioning is the basis in which Proposition 8 was initiated. Is there any doubt that this was a movement spearheaded and based upon by religious beliefs? I'm sure we all know the obvious reasons for why church and state are separated. You can't dictate another's lifestyle based upon your own spiritual beliefs. It creates an unfair scenario for those who don't share those beliefs. Even in a democracy, this is unacceptable. Not to mention, faith tends to cloud and overcome logic for many people (no offense to anyone, it's just too many people voted with their Bibles).

But is this not what happened with Proposition 8? When you mix popular opinion based governing with popular spiritual beliefs, good things do not happen to those who do not share those beliefs. Faith is something people do not easily change or challenge, the minority doesn't stand a chance.

Like I said before, the majority got what they wanted and many people find that to be fine. However, this time, it went too far. Not only were religious beliefs blatantly applied to our politics, but there was no way to stop them (as far as I can see). The minority was absolutely crushed and didn't stand a chance. The way I see it, this was a perfect example of the majority tyranny scenario. For lack of a better example, (again, no offense) if Hindus suddenly gained a majority in California and wanted to ban beef because its against their religion, what could stop them? Should they even BE stopped?

I realize it's unproductive to criticize the system just because the side I was in favor of lost, but I believe an injustice occurred here. Not just the banning of gay marriage, but the dominance of religious beliefs over our government and the lack of control over what I see as mob rule.

I only wrote this in ten minutes, so I hope it's not too incoherent. I feel like I'm missing a big point here, because there looks to me like there's a huge flaw in our system. Am I?

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Old 08-18-2009, 08:54 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by WCF View Post
Is there anything in place here to prevent the majority tyranny?
There are a few things in place, yes. There is the Constitution itself, mainly through the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment's "Equal Protection Clause." There is also judicial review of laws to ensure that they do not violate the Constitution, no matter how much popular support a law or state amendment may have.

Unfortunately, in theory, there's nothing that can be done to stop especially popular prejudices, provided one is able to pass a federal constitutional amendment to enact it, but, thankfully, the barrier to pass one of these amendments is high to prevent a mere partisan squabble from making it in. And I'd also like to hope that, even if one of these were passed, the basic freedom of the press, speech, and the right to free assembly would be preserved, so that a "loyal opposition" can continue to work to have it overturned without harassment.
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