As I’m sure we all know by now, North Carolina recently passed Amendment One which institutionalized marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution. It is a black eye for a state that was so pivotal to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. 60% of North Carolinians who voted disagree with me, but I don’t think that 60% of North Carolina’s registered voters do.
This is the point that I want to speak to in this blog post.
The passage of Amendment One was a clear demonstration of how democracy in the US is a misrepresentation of the majority through the zealotry of a motivated minority.
The California proposition system is another example of the same.
Specifically, the motivated parties bring forward a change at a point in the voting cycle in which they are guaranteed to win as opposed to when the majority at large is motivated to vote. In North Carolina, the motivated minority was actually the majority party of Republicans in the General Assembly. Polls showed that most North Carolinians thought civil unions, and through civil unions the benefits of marriage, should be had by all. The Republicans in the General Assembly did not.
A couple things that the Republicans did masterfully:
- They put the issue on the ballot in May instead of in November. This put most students back home or in exams. It also meant most Democrats, who are not in a presidential primary cycle, would not be motivated to vote.
- They prevented any debate from occurring when the issue was brought to the floor of the legislative houses. Debate could have derailed support, and may have prevented the issue from getting on the May ballot.
- They used the evangelical community to rally support around the bill. They turned Amendment One into a social issue when at its core it is truly a legal issue.
And so, through these rather undemocratic means, the Republicans democratically pushed through Amendment One.
Would it have passed anyway? I don’t know. But I am certain it would not have been 60-40 had the vote happened in November.
I’ve thought quite a bit about how I would fix such a system. For this specific case, I’d like to kill the word marriage from all government documents. I’ll come back to that in another post. However, for the more general case, I wonder if we need to dampen true democracy. Have a randomly selected group of individuals act as guardians of common sense. What we have now is clearly broken, but a solution isn’t easily forthcoming either.
Ultimately, I think Socrates was right – democracy just doesn’t work.