Democracy and majority are two interconnected concepts that can be interchangeably used and that represent one of the most important notions of contemporary societies: people’s self-determination. For many centuries, democracy, from the Greek “demos” (people) and “kratos” (rule or power) and majority (in this context, the voice of the great number of people), have been constantly misconstrued and abused to the extent of presenting many executive, legislative and judicial leaders as dishonest individuals who manage to deceitfully acquire power from people in order to act for their own interests and to speak in the name of the people against the people.
As you may have heard, majority is regarded as the voice of God (vox populi, vox dei), not for the simple reason that it is a representation of the will of the many, but also because of the notions of reason, morality and goodness it carries with it as its essential components. For, the majority (the ideas and judgments of the many) suggests that the will and judgments of many people always produce something reasonable, something that promotes harmony, happiness’ and well-being for society in the near or far future. Although humans are fallible, it is assumed that not many people can assemble and be easily mistaken in their decisions.
Thus, since the Ancient Greece all the way to present times, it was and is still believed and expected that the majority, as the voice of the many and, hence, the voice of God, will always produce sound judgments and decisions that yield happiness to which many people, if not all, aspire. And yet, since the United States has called itself a democracy in 1787 by virtue of its constitution, millions of people continued to be mistreated as slaves and discriminated against by a political system established by the majority and ruled according to the will of the majority; millions of women could not enjoy their right to vote, while men were regarded as competent to vote.
One would question how the majority as the will of God could allow such injustice and inconsideration. The answer to this question has been already provided in previous columns. A real majority that can promote peace, happiness, and well-being to people is not determined by its quantitative status but instead, by its qualitative one. A majority can be represented by 70%, 80%, or 99% of the voices or people, but if it is constituted of unwise, unreasonable, irrational, self-centered and amoral people, it cannot produce sound judgments and responsible decisions, and therefore, cannot promote happiness and well-being for society.
Some would argue that in democracy it does matter what kind of decision or choice is made providing that it is made by the majority. The problem is how right, moral, just and justified is the so-called majority decision in order to be considered as the voice of God. What type of people represent the majority, how truly their decisions intend to promote happiness and well-being of the many, and lastly, how do their decisions reflect the will of the majority?
In the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, the administration introduced a piece of regulation known as the “Dodd-Frank”, a financial reform measure to prevent banks from using people’s deposits to trade in derivatives- the risky securities that many believed contributed to the crisis. Experts said that the regulation was a way to protect taxpayers’ money. Oct. 30, the House of Representative under the Republican majority, influenced by lobbyists, passed a bill that reversed the spirit of the “Dodd-Frank rule”. In fact, no party can claim to have clean hands on these types of clientelism with lobbyists. But, as it would be remembered, Republicans used their majority to please Wall Street, their financier, rather than protecting the people from whom their power emanated.
According to The New York Times’ and Mother Jones’ report, the language of the bill passed by the majority in the House was nearly identical to the one suggested by lobbyists. This is not the first incident where we have seen lawmakers from both Republicans and Democrats abandon their common sense in order to please the will of a small group of people in the name of their majority power.
The immoral decision of our politicians of acting in favor of a small group of people to the detriment of the large population is just one among many examples known in American politics, which suggests that the voice of the majority or people is not always the voice of God, unless those in the majority are driven by moral and ethical values. This is how the majority becomes a serious threat to American democracy.