Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Circumvent the Will of the People


In the  San Francisco Chronicle today the two top front page stories were about the U.S. Senate's passage of a sweeping new Immigration Reform bill, and the legal complexities created by the Supreme Court's knockdown of DOMA and California's Proposition 8 constitutionality (it was struck down too).

In each case, the will of the people was swept aside. On the one hand, by the Supreme Court which is now leaning towards a liberal bias, especially on social issues, and on the other, by a legislative branch which is courting the new growing "Latino/Hispanic" vote.

California voters passed their own version of DOMA by a wide margin, but a single District Court judge (a Gay man himself) ruled it unconstitutional, and the partisan governor and his attorney general "refused" to defend it in court.

Poling has consistently shown that Americans are against a general amnesty for illegal immigrants, and want better, stronger enforcement of our immigration laws and our sovereign borders. The latest amnesty vote in the Senate gives carte blanche to the latest wave of illegals, while "promising" to block further incursions.

In a democracy, the will of the people is supposed to determine the law of the land. And yet these latest maneuvers by our legislative and judicial branches show that that will can be undercut and outmaneuvered through technicalities or corrupt lawmakers. Senator McCain, for instance, whose own state has suffered the most from uncontrolled immigration along its southern border with Mexico, abandoned his staunch stand against amnesty, in order to bolster his party's courting of the Latino vote (he was one of the "gang of 8" who authored the legislation).

What needs to happen in this country is our government to reflect the actual needs and desires of its people. Americans are often stupid, gullible, selfish, and mean-spirited, but in a democracy, we honor sentiments, even when it's inconvenient to do so.

We've known for some time that the interests of big business come first, before the priorities of the voters--that's been true since beginning of our republic. What's even more disheartening, though, is to acknowledge that even small special interest minority groups, like the LGBT and Immigrant lobbies, can overturn the will of the majority--with the assistance of a biased media and corrupt legislators and judges.

These are not good times for American democracy.

3 comments:

Alain Cauchie said...

Hello,
I'm French, and the same kind of thing happens in our country, and in Europe. The big (and not so big) businness decides, and the people just have to shut up, or to vote for Le Pen. I have read your various articles on this subject, they are full of good sense and moderation. Christopher Lash in your country has written good analysis about this kind of phenomenon, and why the workers vote republican, and in France Jean-Claude Michea has written good books about liberalism and how the left is now advocating "cultural liberalism" (Gays, immigration etc..) instead of taking side with the people and his good sense and his sense of "common decency".

I'm also very interested in your articles about poetry and litterature. You made me discover the books of James Salter.
I'm a painter.
Sorry for my poor English!

Randall Tarpey-Schwed said...

Dear Curtis,

I enjoy reading your blog posts about literary topics, but I think you've mangled Civics 101 with this one. Isn't the "will of the people" reflected foremost by the U.S. Constitution in our hierarchy of governance. Would you be so quick to "honor" the sentiments of the people of California if they had voted to outlaw your right to read or sell the books you want?

I think that this particular Supreme Court is schizophrenic to be sure (albeit while speaking with 9 voices not 1). But the role of the Court is to sometimes serve as a backstop and say "wait a minute, that's not consistent with the rules we decided to live by in this country". And what's with the ad hominem reference to Judge Walker being gay? None of the members of the 9th circuit nor the Supreme Court which ultimately let the ruling stand are gay, nor are Boise and Olson who argued the case. Is equal treatment under the law a "special interest" because anti-gay discrimination doesn't impact you personally? There is an intellectual position to be made for bare knuckled democracy, but I doubt you would be making that argument if you were gay.

Randall Tarpey-Schwed

Curtis Faville said...

Randall:

Thanks for the comment.

The constitutional issue of how to shield minorities from the will of the majority is far too complex for us to decide here.

I take your point about the "backstop" function of the Supreme Court. I think the question comes down to how to treat issues which may lie just outside the realm of "right". I don't see sexual "difference" or immigrant squatting as constitutional rights--though it's hard to talk about them in the same breath, they're different kinds of issues.

If you take a certain position, and you're in the majority, it doesn't necessarily imply that those in the minority have had some previously defined right "taken away" or withheld. 50 years ago, to have suggested that illegal immigrants or LGBT's had "constitutional rights" would have drawn guffaws.

The natural response to this is that things change, and people's minds change with them. But to suggest that the will of the people over an issue they have every right to decide will NOT be honored, is dangerous territory.

As I suggested, the will of the people often reflects prejudice and bigotry. Changing minds and hearts is one thing, but most commentators have decided that the Supreme Court was "following the sentiment trend" rather than perfecting our law. If Gay marriage were to be put to a vote today, it might well win in California--so why not go back to the polls, instead of special pleading before the Supremes? Now the issue, like abortion, will fester for years, just as Roe v. Wade has.

We all want the Court to decide in our favor, but if every special interest gets its way, what happens to the will of the people, as expressed as a majority?

My point wan't meant as a condemnation of Gay rights or immigrant rights (those are also complex issues), but simply to suggest that the will of the people has been countermanded. Liking or not liking what the Court or the Congress decided about a certain issue is one thing; but routinely ignoring the will of the majority carries risks.