The Tyranny of the Majority Party

If Democrats insist on passing unpopular laws, they won’t control Congress for long.

by Fred Barnes
Wall Street Journal
December 28, 2009

Alexis de Tocqueville never met Harry Reid. Had he encountered the Senate Democratic leader—or President Barack Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—de Tocqueville might have learned about a new twist on his concept of the “tyranny of the majority.”

The Frenchman toured America in the 1830s and published his conclusions in the classic “Democracy in America.” He noted the powerful impact of public opinion. “That is what forms the majority,” he wrote. Congress merely “represents the majority and obeys it blindly” and so does the president. They are free to brush aside minority opinion, creating a threat de Tocqueville described as the “tyranny of the majority.”

Democrats in Washington do have large majorities in Congress. But instead of reflecting popular opinion, they are pursuing wide-ranging initiatives in defiance of the views of the majority of Americans. This stands de Tocqueville’s concept on its head.

The most striking example is health-care reform. It is intensely unpopular but was approved by the House in November and the Senate on Christmas Eve. Asked in a Rasmussen poll in mid-December if they’d prefer no bill to ObamaCare, 57% said they would. Only 34% said they’d rather ObamaCare be enacted…

…With large congressional majorities, Democrats decided to forget about Mr. Obama’s campaign theme of bipartisanship. They brook no compromise with Republicans and forge ahead on issue after issue—health care, cap and trade, Guantanamo, spending, the deficit—despite the public’s mounting disapproval.

That arrogance shaped the economic stimulus passed in February. Republicans wanted tax cuts to spur investment and create jobs. Democrats rejected that idea and enacted a huge increase in spending. As unemployment continued to rise, public opinion turned against the stimulus. Nonetheless, House Democrats passed a new, smaller stimulus bill last week with the same emphasis on spending.

Large majorities create what de Tocqueville called a sense of “omnipotence.” This leads to overreaching and spawns dubious ideas. Since Democrats believe they will benefit from passing any sort of health-care bill regardless of public opinion, they’re committed to passing anything they can call a “historic” achievement. That makes little sense.

With history in mind, cutting procedural corners becomes acceptable. Thus Democrats have set arbitrary deadlines, scheduled post-midnight votes and put limits on debate, all in the name of achieving a breakthrough…

The entire article is at WSJ.

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