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On Majorities and Mandates 

Dear Editor, 

In recent weeks, the radical left has renewed its all-out assault on our Constitution and the federal republican form of government that has been the foundation of America’s success and stability for almost 250 years.  Their sales pitch goes “undemocratic structures in our government – like the Supreme Court, the Senate, the Electoral College – are being used to thwart the needs and desires of the majority of Americans.” 

This is factually inaccurate and represents a tragically misguided understanding of how the American government is supposed to work. 

First of all, for all its dysfunction, Congress is working exactly the way the Founders intended.  Our checks and balances are in place to prevent the “tyranny” of a political majority. Today’s circumstances fit this description to a tee.  The Democratic party has the smallest two-house majority in Congress ever. They are trying to use that majority to force through radical changes that are far different from what President Biden promised when he campaigned. No country can survive in the long haul if whomever takes power by the slimmest of margins can run roughshod over every other citizen. Real change in America requires consensus. Rather than make any good faith effort to gain consensus or bi-partisan support, the Democrats want to everyone to kowtow to their “progressive” flank.  (Progressives make up only 16% of the electorate.) Our institutions and traditions are stopping their radicalism. Rather than rethink their approach or try to gain a critical mass of support from Americans, leftists prefer to burn the house down. 

Secondly, Democrats do NOT have a majority in this country. In the last two decades, the number of Independents or “swing voters” has grown significantly. They make up 25%-30% of the electorate. The fact that most of them voted for Joe Biden in 2020 does not make them Democrats. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans make up a majority of American voters. So when Senator Bernie Sanders says the vast majority of Americans supported Build Back Better, either he thinks only registered Democrats count or he failed math as a child.  According to NPR, only 41% of Americans supported the now dead Build Back Better bill, including only 36% of independents.  Perhaps the Democratic leadership in Washington is just stuck in its own bubble. The majority of Americans outside the Beltway opposed Biden’s signature spending bill, oppose his open border policies, disapprove of his handling of inflation, and oppose his approach to crime.  And yet, these elected officials and their media allies continue to pretend they are doing the bidding of the American “majority.” 

Third, for most of my life, Americans understood the critical role of the Supreme Court.  The justices do not exist to support liberal or conservative policies. Their job is to remain neutral and clarify the law of the land.  Sometimes that means striking down a well-intended law that conflicts with the Constitution. Other times it means telling Congress to do its job rather than trying to legislate through the courts. Since the law of the land is now inconvenient to the radical left, they want to kick out one leg of the Constitution and pack the court. This is a horrific idea that is not at all based in principle. It’s based on wanting what you want and not caring how you get it. Let’s face it, if Hillary had won then the 6-3 balance of the court would be reversed. Does anyone think the progressives would be complaining about the structure of the Supreme Court in those circumstances? 

Finally, a word about popular mandates (as opposed to vaccine mandates). There is no formal definition of what makes up a “mandate.” Victorious politicians often declare a mandate even when they know it isn’t so. Many mocked President Trump when he claimed he had a landslide victory and thus a mandate. President Biden’s margin of victory in the Electoral College was about the same as Trump’s. His 51% of the popular vote was not a huge number.  That is not a mandate to ram through a proposed agenda. It is certainly not a mandate to ram through a radical agenda.  Indeed, it’s quite the opposite when you consider that candidate Biden promised a return to normalcy and bipartisanship.  

Back in 2001, new president George W. Bush was very measured during his first months in office. After the divisive and close 2000 election, Bush knew he did not have a strong mandate. He felt the need to build unity. Did he have to do that? No. Technically he had as much authority as FDR did after his biggest landslide in 1936.  However, he had the good sense to try and lead all Americans.  Biden would do well to learn from Bush. 

In summary, we need to stand firm as a country against people who want to “save democracy” by destroying our democratic institutions and by-passing the democratic process with executive fiats. If the party in power can’t do it right –if they can’t sell their ideas to a clear majority of our citizens– then their radical solutions are just not that good.  That doesn’t mean every progressive idea is bad. There is common ground– and potentially true majorities– if Democratic leaders (Schumer, Pelosi, Meeks) are willing to stand up their extremist wing.     

Paul King