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March 14, 2005

Majority Rule and Minority Rights

Often times conservatives arguing with liberals like to say "What are you complaining about? Majority rule, right? We won the election! Don't you believe in Democracy?!" Democracy is more complicated than just "majority rule".
All democracies are systems in which citizens freely make political decisions by majority rule. But rule by the majority is not necessarily democratic: No one, for example, would call a system fair or just that permitted 51 percent of the population to oppress the remaining 49 percent in the name of the majority. In a democratic society, majority rule must be coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of minorities--whether ethnic, religious, or political, or simply the losers in the debate over a piece of controversial legislation. The rights of minorities do not depend upon the goodwill of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote. The rights of minorities are protected because democratic laws and institutions protect the rights of all citizens.
So just because Republicans are in control now, does not simply mean they can kill all the Democrats. Just because the majority of the population does not want gay marriage, does not mean we can simply ban gay marriage. Just because the majority of the United States is Christian, does not mean we can kick all the Jews out. We have many laws protecting minorities because history shows that majorities often repress minorities.

So please, enough with the "majority rule" argument.

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