Great Moments in Minority Rule

Underlying the fondness for the judicial filibuster is the scantily-disguised philosophy that the minority knows better than the majority.

Husband David has considered this philosophy, and found it wanting:

To hear Senate Democrats talk, you’d think that only majorities are capable of tyranny. That seems to be the general thrust of their argument for maintaining the judicial filibuster.

But history is littered with examples of tyranny by the minority — examples that prove tyranny is no picnic, regardless of who the tyrant may be.

Here are just a few of the most spectacular examples:

South Africa: Under the apartheid regime, non-whites were barred from voting in general elections; they were required to carry identification cards wherever they went; they were told where they could live and where they could travel; they were prevented from using certain public amenities; and they were routinely abused by the white-run police force — despite the fact that they accounted for more than three-quarters of the nation’s population.

Iraq: After seizing power twice through military coups — once in 1963 and again in 1968 — Iraq’s minority-run Ba’athist party ruled Iraq with an iron fist until deposed by the U.S. military two years ago. In 1988, for example, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime used nerve agents to kill an estimated 100,000 Kurds. The Ba’athist Party is made up principally of Sunnis, who currently make up about one-fifth of Iraq’s population.

U.S.: To stop the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from becoming the law of the land, Southern Democrats filibustered it for 57 hours before a sufficient number of votes were lined up to invoke cloture.

Burundi: Burundi’s Tutsi-run government exterminated as many as 200,000 Hutus. Tutsis are an ethnic minority making up only about a sixth of Burundi’s population, while Hutus are the ethnic majority making up more than 80% of the population.

There’s no automatic virtue in minority rule.

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