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David Blair: Minority rule and the threat to democracy



For the Monitor
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On July 4, I attended a naturalization ceremony for 152 new Americans from 51 countries at Old Sturbridge Village.

The presiding judge welcomed the new citizens warmly, shared his own immigrant background, and talked about their new rights and responsibilities. He also spoke of our neighbors for whom, “whether they harvest crops in our fields, help construct our buildings, work in our restaurants or even seek asylum, American citizenship remains a distant dream.” Speaking to the new Americans, and to all of us, he went on to say: “We must make sure therefore, especially now, when the public discourse about immigration has become so toxic, that the ladder which you have been able to climb to arrive to this day, is not pulled up behind you.”

The judge continued by quoting George Washington: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions.” This is the promise that I saw fulfilled on the 4th, and the promise withheld from so many others, whether they are Muslims denied entry to the United States because they are Muslim, or Central Americans denied the right to apply for asylum and deported back to places where they are in grave danger of being killed.

Our new American neighbors said these words as part of the oath of naturalization: “I hereby declare . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Our Constitution is under attack from within. Voter suppression and gerrymandering have made it possible for a minority of voters to elect a majority of representatives at both state and federal levels. Unlimited corporate money now flows into our elections, representing the special interests of those corporations. The judicial activists of the Supreme Court’s majority allowed this in Citizens United as “free speech” yet gutted the Voting Rights Act, and they have just upheld voter suppression in Ohio and a racial gerrymander in Texas. The Supreme Court has become more and more partisan, willing now to overturn longstanding precedent in order to advance a radical agenda.

Doug Muder, the N.H. blogger of “The Weekly Sift,” writes that we now have a minority ruling as a majority.

– The 20 states with two Republican senators in 2016 had a total population of 99,576,045 in the 2010 census. The 16 states with two Democratic senators numbered 126,215,202 (14 states split their senators). An eight-seat Republican majority was elected by a clear minority of the American people.

– This minority-rule majority would not allow the Senate to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

– The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch by a vote of 53-46. “Twenty-two states had two senators voting for Gorsuch and one (Georgia) had one for and one not voting, so counting Georgia’s population for Gorsuch, those states total 108,613,347. Eighteen states totaling 135,576,383 people had two senators voting against Gorsuch.”

– In 2012, Republicans won a 33-seat majority in the U.S. House while losing the popular vote.

– Democrats won a landslide (53 percent to 44 percent) victor in Virginia’s House of Delegates yet didn’t gain a majority.

Muder concludes that “minority rulers in Congress, the White House and state capitals keep changing the rules to make it possible to rule with ever-smaller minorities. And a minority-appointed Supreme Court is fine with that.”

I write as an American who loves democracy. We need to pass a constitutional amendment to control corporate political spending. We must protect voting rights and stop gerrymandering, by legislation or amendment. The Electoral College should be abolished. Approximately 3.4 million Puerto Ricans are not represented in Congress, nor are 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C., yet they are taxed without representation. Puerto Rico should be offered statehood and D.C. representation.

If 152 new Americans pledged to support and defend the Constitution, isn’t this the duty of all Americans? Our democracy has been under threat for many years, and the anti-democratic agenda is advancing. This is the fight of our lifetimes, and it will last beyond mine. I’m not giving up. I’m in. How about you?

(David Blair lives in Harrisville.)