A democracy where the minority often rules | Opinion

June 6, 2022 5:40 am

Sadly, mass shootings occur all too often. As of this writing, 20 more have occurred since Uvalde, making a total of 233 mass shootings in the United States this year. More shootings than the days so far (photo by Olga Mendenhall/iStock Images).

America’s form of democracy is supposed to be one where the consent of the majority rules. But is it?

This question could not resonate any louder than when it comes to passing sensible gun control measures to stop the mass killing of unsuspecting citizens with military style weapons.

The devastating tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, where the lives of 19 elementary school children and two adult were brutally taken a mere 10 days following the supermarket mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where 10 unsuspecting shoppers were murdered.

Those incidents made worldwide news. Sadly, mass shootings occur all too often. As of this writing, 20 more have occurred since Uvalde, making a total of 243 mass shootings in the United States this year. More shootings than the days so far.

In addition to the lost lives and physical injuries, the effects of these senseless killings on families and communities where they occur are lifelong.

In the meantime, many of us are left wandering when or where will the next carnage occur.

Yet, the majority of Americans have made it clear that they want sensible gun control measures put into place. Measures like universal background checks, banning military style weapons, gun buy-back programs and red flag laws.

Is the minority or the majority controlling the legislative actions or inaction when it comes to passing sensible gun control measures?

Is America’s form of democracy one where the minority rules?

Yes, most citizens are free to vote for who will represent them. Indeed, the majority determines who will hold various legislative offices.

But whether voting for a person to represent you, or voting for an initiative petition, are the election results, alone, democracy at work? Once the person you voted for gets in office, does he or she actually represent your interests in the legislative halls? When a majority of citizens vote for a particular initiative petition, is it implemented as approved?

These are questions worth asking. But it doesn’t stop there.

What about when a majority of citizens polled make it clear that they prefer the president, Congress and state legislatures to take a particular course of action?

In critical areas, it seems that the will of the majority has little value and is repeatedly ignored. What’s worse is that many elected officials are comfortable doing so time after time.

Perhaps, the most egregious and depraved example is the cowardice and constant failure of elected officials to pass sensible measures to minimize, if not stop, the carnage that takes the lives of innocent people.

Other countries have done it, but not the United States.

How many more incidents will it take for the United State Senate to pass sensible gun control measures to stop the horrid massacre of school children?

But gun control is not the only issue where the will of the majority is ignored.

At the national level, the majority of Americans do not think the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn Roe vs. Wade and that women should have access to legal abortions.

A majority of Americans are in favor of universal health care. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has had legislative and legal opposition that reached the Supreme Court. And partisan politics still pledge to continue the fight to undo it, putting millions of Americans at risk of losing healthcare coverage

At the state level, Missouri lawmakers opposed Medicaid expansion. The issue was put on the ballot and ultimately approved by voters. The state legislature continued to fight or delay implementing it.

Even the most obvious tenet of democracy, where the will of people can be determined —the vote — is under siege. Efforts in many states are being taken to make it more difficult to determine the will of the majority.

Is America merely masquerading as a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people?

It seems that, too often, the will of the majority stops at the ballot box. Once elected officials get into office, more attention is paid to the lobbyists, special interests and those who provided the largest financial contributions to their campaigns, or some partisan agenda of a minority.

Money and minority interests seem to trump the will of the majority of citizens who voted to elect them.

But we, the majority, are not without blame. Too many of us are content and see voting as our primary role to ensure that democracy works.

Casting a vote is only the beginning. We must do more to monitor the actions and hold accountable those we elect to do what is in the best interests of our community and family. When they don’t, we need to vote them out of office.

Such monitoring and accountability must occur at every level of government.

Otherwise, representative government that supposed to carry out the will of the majority will continue to be ignored, marginalized, and discarded.

We are confronted yet again with an issue where majority will seems not to matter —addressing continual availability of military style guns that are used in mass killings and injuries of innocent Americans, in public places that were once deemed safe if not sacred.

Why would the majority continue to let the minority rule, and allow our elected officials in Congress and our states to merely lob an opening salvo instead of passing meaningful legislation to control gun violence?

While we sit idly by the carnage continues.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.