I am quickly becoming dubious of pure democracy. Just to be clear, this is a modern experiment. America was founded as a representational democracy, like the Greek and Roman democracies after which it was modeled. If you don’t understand the importance of that, then it is you I am talking about and not to.
When America was established, landed white men were representing the needs and people of this country. It was not representational in the sense that the people in the Congress looked like the people that they were governing. If the did, a large chunk of Congress would have been made up of slaves, women, illiterates, indians, etc. Maybe that would have been a better way to start.
But, the reasoning at the time was that these self-made men must know a thing or two to have made it into their prominate positions. As the social betters they took the burden and the duty of representating the needs of the republic. All democracies at this point were really republics where the representatives came from a strictly established class of citizens. Everyone else were supposed to benefit from this rule of wise, wealthy men.
In the 20th centurary, these wise men did something unheard of in all of human history. They started to share their exclusive rights with previously lesser citizens. It was these white ruling males who share voting rights with slaves. It was men who shared voting with women.
This was not done by force. For the first time, a ruling class granted power to the previously ruled. The representatives of the American republic decided a government of the poeple should be more by the people. It sounds patronizing, but in a nutshell, this was something big and different in the history of human affairs. The ruling patrioarchy decided that freedom was more worth more, if more people had it. (Which runs counter to any economic theory).
Another thing that made America’s democracy unique was its initial focus on freedoms of the individual. The Constitution didn’t enumerate the powers that the government had, but it 10 first and most famous ammendments enumerate what powers the government can never have.
I watched the recent vote in Maine with a certain amount of disgust and shame in my fellow Americans. The irony is as more and more Americans gained the right to vote, America has more and more voted to take rights away from minorities. States have voted to ban interracial marriage, for segregation, to imposes taxes on immigrants. Communities have voted to foist their popular religions on everyone, claiming that the country was founded on their particular religious view. (Psst, I don’t think any Baptists were on the Mayflower).
I cannot think of a single minority right, in the last 50 years, that wasn’t protected by a court order or a legistlative action. While the early elite may have had the stomach and conviction to shared their freedoms, the majority only seems to be able to manage mob rule and a fearful hording of their percieved deminishing rights.
It is just that a bunch of Americans voted that marriage was for them, not people not like them; they vote with a constant sense of fear that if they include people in America it means less of the pie for them. You see votes all over the country to block children of immegrants going to schools.
Imagine if all the early elite who helped fund our publci schools and libraries never did. They realized that funding a public option for education would result in a better and more productive nation. They didn’t imagine that they were giving away the pie, they thought that they were growing it.
What if men in 1920 thought that by giving women the right to vote, the value of each of their votes was halved? Instead the nation ratified that it was fair and just that women should be equal and that by including them in running the nation, we would have more collective wisdome.
But somehow, 89 years later, the mob rulers of Maine decided that if two women get married, it will deminish the legal and spiritial status of all the marriages between men and women. So they actually voted to deminish the rights of their minority citizens in the proud tradition of segrationist before them.
It seems that as the voices in this democracy have expanded, the convictions and history of the founders have faded. Did all these brave men and women who came before us struggle and even lay down their lives just so you could feel safe? Is your job as a citizen of a democracy and a representative for all those who cannot speak for themselves, just to protect your piece of the pie? Do some people really believe, down in their heart of hearts, that because the majority agrees, that they should be able to take rights away from the minority?