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Wit and Wisdom

Majority Rules

At an early age we learn the principle that majority rules.  We also learn the corollary, that majority opinion should respect minority rights. They’re both important lessons, but logically the basic principle comes first. Not so in the upper house of Congress the past few years: like an untended garden, the United States Senate has had majority rule choked off by minority rights run wild.  

As Ari Berman recently pointed out in The Nation, just because we’ve gotten used to hearing that a bill has failed because it only received 59 of the body’s 100 votes doesn’t make it “any less surreal.”  And because most people don’t understand that it is the dysfunctional Senate that blocks, delays and dilutes important legislation, the false impression builds that it is the entire government that’s broken, not just one part.  

That false impression, in turn, fuels disillusionment with government, apathy towards voting, and in extreme cases, anger and violence. The haphazardly accumulated obstructionist rules of the Senate are threatening our democracy.

But momentum is building to rescue America's legislative system. Every Democratic senator has signed a letter to the leadership demanding rules reform in the new session starting early next month. Working from the outside, Fix the Senate Now is a coalition of organizations who’ve realized programatic change can’t proceed until the process is repaired.  The basic structural reform pursued by both groups deserves all our support.

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