Saturday, February 18, 2012

Voting ourselves to the back of the bus

Andrew Sullivan raises a larger issue while commenting on Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a bill from the New Jersey legislature backing gay marriage:
"The way in which a tiny 2- 3 percent minority seeking basic civil equality has been forced now to be subject to state referendums, even after winning legislative victories, strikes me as revealing. It's basically an attack on representative government, a resort to the forms of decision-making which maximize the potential for anonymous bigotry and minimize the importance of representative government, a core achievement of Anglo-American democracy, that can help enhance reason of the accountable against the sometimes raw prejudice of the majority."
He's right, of course. How would a public referendum on eliminating the Jim Crow laws in Alabama or Mississippi have fared in, say, 1932? You know the answer. As Sullivan noted, there's a reason the founders feared the "tyranny of the majority" and established a republic not a pure democracy.

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