Jan
18
2014

Rand Paul (accurately) notes that Jim Crow was a majoritarian policy, too.

I am probably quite a bit too neoconservative for Senator Paul’s liking, but: no fear.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in an interview Thursday, likened President Obama’s governing philosophy to the kind of “majority rule” that led to Jim Crow laws and Japanese internment camps.

[snip]

“The danger to majority rule — to him sort of thinking, well, the majority voted for me, now I’m the majority, I can do whatever I want, and that there are no rules that restrain me — that’s what gave us Jim Crow,” Paul said. “That’s what gave us the internment of the Japanese — that the majority said you don’t have individual rights, and individual rights don’t come from your creator, and they’re not guaranteed by the Constitution. It’s just whatever the majority wants.”

(H/T: Hot Air Headlines) I’ll add the Trail of Tears and our abysmal treaty history with Native Americans to that one, too. The central problem for democracy has always been what happens when 54% of the voters, say, want to do something horrible to the other 46%*. The Founders – mindful of the story of Socrates, and those of mob rule in the Roman Empire** – put up a bunch of roadblocks to that; and it’s no accident that the USA still remains a place where ‘a contested election’ does not mean ‘firefights in the streets.’ That the entire thing sounds absurd – which it is not; violent power changes are the norm throughout human history – show the power of the concept that our current President so unthinkingly disparages.

Let me lock that ‘unthinkingly’ down, by the way.  I do not say that Barack Obama wishes to set up a dictatorship, as modern people define the term. I do say that his behavior would be instantly recognizable to people of the Hellenistic period: President Obama wishes to rule, and to have his decrees backed up by the loud, riotous approval of the Mob***. We are fortunate that our current educational system is only poor by our own standards; that the President himself lacks the charisma that the successful Classical-era Tyrants relied upon; that, as a direct result of the first two points, any Mob that the President could generate would be more of a bunch of cyber-street protesters than an actual populist movement;  and, finally, that basic republican structures are still in place in this country, with a critical percentage of Obama’s own Democrats being unwilling to change them.

But none of this excuses the President for not doing his technical reading.  You’d think that somebody who made ‘public service’ his career path could be counted on to at least do a private survey of the history of government…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Although it’s usually more like that they want to do something horrible to, say, a subgroup of the 46%.

**If you are thinking of that Thomas Jefferson quote, alas: it is almost certainly bunk. And probably anti-Bush agitprop, at that (2004 was a period where the GOP controlled both the White House and Congress).

***No, not the Mafia.

3 Comments

  • phineasfahrquar says:

    “Let me lock that ‘unthinkingly’ down, by the way. I do not say that Barack Obama wishes to set up a dictatorship, as modern people define the term. ”

    I think “tyrant” is appropriate, though, in the old sense of the “rule of one man.” What he wants is a rubber-stamp legislature that will approve whatever he wishes, much like the Roman Senate under the Late Republic strongmen, or South American legislatures under the latest “caudillo.”

    Republican or Democrat, I’ll be glad for the day when Congress rediscovers the institutional jealousy Madison meant it to have and quits gleefully ceding so much authority to the presidency and its subordinate agencies.

    • sicsemperstolidissimum says:

      The classical tyrant did not expect things to happen without the leadership, work, and ability that had got them there in the first place.
      .
      Leaders who were thought to be able to magic things into happening were features of other systems.
      .
      Of course, the famous Gaius Julius Caesar is kind of an odd case. I don’t think he had any great faith in the mystic trappings he used, but that is just my own impression.

  • sicsemperstolidissimum says:

    I would quibble.
    .
    Yes, ‘everything on the current nose count’ is fundamentally opposed to a Republic, and is the whole reason for making a republic, as opposed to a democracy, where that is how things work.
    .
    However, segregation also had a non-trivial amount of terrorism, which was used to distort the results of the nosecount. Yes, if enough people feel that is okay, it counts as a form of democracy. However, the institution of full Jim Crow was geographically limited, and was ended when faced with too much transparency, so I doubt it had that much backing. Furthermore, the part Jim Crow played in ensuring FDR was elected and had a free hand may cast doubt also on that issue. Of course this may presume that Obama was elected honestly, by people who were aware.
    .
    I have at least two issues with your own examples.
    .
    One is the question of whether a republic can be expected to protect a population it does not govern. This is a luxury, not an essential feature.
    .
    I’m inclined to joke that you complaining about it is cultural appropriation. Presuming that your upbringing was such that the oral history you received was substantially different from that of the time when the culture was implementing those decisions. You are of recent vintage, and for all I know, you may be an Easterner.
    .
    More seriously, the government must protect the second amendment rights of the British why?
    .
    Secondly is the question of whether the treaties could have been adhered to, if only people decided to do so.
    .
    I think that in general, both sides had issues with being /able/ to comply. The United States didn’t exactly have the organization and communication to force close coordination between local Americans, military units in the field, and Washington DC. Some of the Plains Indians essentially had their equivalent of combat and training/support units politically independent. When the one didn’t have peace treaties, and the other did, many of the Indians did not at first fully appreciate that not all Americans would have the background to follow what happened. I don’t see anymore reason to bitch about people on one ‘side’ not being able to tell a Choctaw from a Cherokee than about people on the other ‘side’ not being able to tell a Finn from a French.

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