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  • Writer's pictureRaymond Niblock

Book Review: "Tyranny of the Minority," by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

The title caught me because it was antithetical to the term Alexis de Tocqueville used in his book, "Democracy in America" over two centuries ago. Even after being a philosophy and political theory student, I still marveled at what our Constitutional Framers achieved. Rightly so. But I did not see the aspects of our foundational document that threaten our democracy until I read "Tyranny of the Minority," which stands for the proposition that our beloved Constitution is in dire need of amending if our democracy is to evolve and survive our collective march toward a multicultural society.

Contrary to my expectation of yelling "Bomb throwers!" at the top of my lungs while I read it, this compelling work argues for significant reforms to amplify democratic principles of equality and proportional representation so that the populace is more accurately represented in government. Moreover, majorities should ultimately win elections (apparent exceptions exist, such as when a majority seeks to curtail "inalienable" human rights).

Central to the book's thesis is the urgent need to eliminate anti-democratic aspects of our Constitution by making a series of transformative changes that include imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices, reforming the Senate for fairer representation, and ending the filibuster, expanding Congress to reflect the nation's diversity better; and instituting accurate proportional representation to ensure every vote counts. I might add that the two-party system, though not directly attacked, needs to go.

These concepts are but a few mentioned, but it wasn't the proposed evolutions that caught my attention; instead, it was the case the authors made that our Constitution does, indeed, protect minority points of view to such an extent that true democracy cannot flourish here because seriously unpopular laws somehow get passed. In contrast, popular ones never make it out of Congress. Or if a popular measure somehow makes it into law, they do, but they are nullified by our Supreme Court, which does not reflect the values of the majority of the nation.

What I knew intellectually but did not appreciate fully was that the Constitution was designed by men who knew little else than government by a monarch. The men who created our foundational governmental documents had a fundamental mistrust of ordinary people.

Case in point: the Electoral College. How is it that a person who loses a popular election like Orange Man by literally millions of votes could still, somehow, become President of the United States? It is this way because the framers did not trust the populace and see what damage he did in his short time in office by appointing partisan hacks to the Supreme Court. That damage will last another generation.

I was astonished at the history lesson provided by the two writers who proved, over and over again, that the fear of change fuels anti-democratic efforts to overrule popular things like, let's see, letting African Americans vote (Jim Crow) or, later, allowing Women's suffrage. Later, look at what the Supreme Court did to the women of this nation in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. Consider this: if democracy was so important to the framers, why isn't the right to vote enshrined in the Constitution as a fundamental right?

The read is worthy of your time, and it was undoubtedly grist for the mill as I am on the eve of beginning the sequel to "The Last Independence Day: Secession." It is germane because "The Last Independence Day" is a story showing what can happen when a minority of extremists garner and then exploit the power they do not deserve to hold and the power they maintain by anti-democratic means. The book also focuses on the apparent divide in this nation between rural and urban people, which threatens to end our democratic experiment if we do not find a way to bridge the gap between the two.

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