I’ve probably talked before about my general disagreements with my representative, Howard P. “Buck” McKeon. And so, as you might not be surprised, this carries over to his take on the Prop 8 ruling this week. He was quoted yesterday in The Signal, Santa Clarita’s paper:
To me, it seems like people are really angry — not just at this, but they’re angry at having their will thwarted at every turn … It seems like they’re almost on the verge of revolution in many places … It just seems like the majority doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the minority [that] wins out on these things.
Oh, Buck. Yes, people are upset. Around 52% of California is probably upset. But “having their will thwarted at every turn”? A “revolution”? Come on. Rein in your rhetoric. Those are hollow words, empty and inflammatory. No one is revolting in the streets because love and equality triumphed over bigotry and parochialism. There’s no conspiracy to crush the right into oblivion. You see, Buck, that’s the beautiful thing about our republic. Hit it, Madison:
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.
That’s Federalist paper #51, and it basically sums up why America is awesome: we protect the minority. Sure, it may take the U.S. a while (quick timeline: country founded, 1796; decide blacks have equal rights, 1864; decide women have equal rights, 1920; decide homosexuals have equal rights, who the hell knows), but we’re pretty good at getting to it eventually. What that means, Buck, is that even with control of the legislative and executive branch, the liberals are not out to extirpate and expunge the conservatives. And even if they were, they couldn’t. Checks and balances. Midterm elections. These staples of our democracy tend to work.
Now, Buck, you may say that’s all well and good, but the majority of voters approved Proposition 8. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t make the proposition right. How can you use the logic that if the people vote for something, that thing is always, indubitably, unequivocally right? What if the fine voters of California had decided they wanted to return to the days when blacks and whites couldn’t intermarry? Would that be “right” because the majority believes it? This is about protecting the few from the tyranny of the many, not the other way around. I suppose it’s a philosophical argument: is there an objective right and wrong, or is morality decided by democracy? I have to say I side with the former, and I’d say that Madison would, too. The latter is simply too terrifying. (Case in point: someone asked me once what the world would be like if the majority decided what laws of physics mankind believed in, instead of the “minority” — i.e. physicists and engineers. Say goodbye to about every piece of technological innovation created in the last century.) And if you argue that claiming there is an objective morality could lead to an authoritarian government that decides all matters moral for its citizens, well, I counter with the opposite extreme: letting the people decide could lead to the manifestation of xenophobia, homophobia, or any other kind of discriminatory phobia, and thus to the suppression of minorities. It’s a thin line to walk, obviously. And, as in just about every other conceivable topic, extremes are dangerous.
But okay, fine. Maybe you still don’t buy that, Buck. Maybe you think the populace should have the power to mold truth. Fine. That’s a degree of disagreement we’re not likely to reconcile. But I have one more problem with your statements. If you’re so upset that the majority “doesn’t matter,” that the minority is somehow abusing its power, answer me this: how do you feel about the California legislature, where the Democrats have a majority and the Republicans are stymieing every effort to pass a budget? Or about the U.S. Senate, where the Democrats have a majority and the Republicans are forcing them to seek an unreasonable sixty votes to pass any sort of legislation? Or about any other goddamn situation where the tables are turned and you suddenly find yourself a member of the minority? No, when the roles are reversed it’s no longer the tyrannical minority, upsetting the will of the people. Of course not. Then you’re the noble opposition, the tenacious heroes standing up for their beliefs.
So look, Buck. I know we’ll probably never agree on gay marriage. Hell, I know we’ll never agree on the vast majority of issues. So all I’m actually asking you to do is think about what you’re saying. And if you don’t see the problem with it, or the hypocrisy in it, well, I just hope you’re in the minority.