Is 51% really enough anymore?

Honest question. Elections have been won and lost by margins of less than 10 % before. While a pure democracy works fine in small groups, is it really fair to basically disenfranchise nearly half the population of a country as large as the United States? Is there a better system? Should there be one?

The losers aren’t “basically disenfranchised”.

Because their guy lost they are ‘basically disenfranchised’?? I dinna think that word means what you seem to THINK it means.

Define ‘better’. There are a number of DIFFERENT systems out there that have proportional representation. I don’t think they are BETTER though…of course MMV.

Gods know. Should??
I that that while our current system has some problems and issues, it works best for us. We DEAL with the problems and issues and modify our system with the changing times and attitudes. That’s one of the advantages of a system that isn’t cast in stone…it can change.


Tp disenfranchise them is to forbid them to vote, not to allow them to vote for a losing candidate. And in theory the President is supposed to be the President of all the people, not merely of his party faithful – something that seems to have escaped the notice of those in power in recent years.

A separeate issue but I think related to what you’re using disenfranchisement to mean is the problem of ‘legislators choosing their constituents’ – redistricting, not to allow the citizens of a given community or area the choice of a representative, but to construct “safe” districts for the incumbents by means that make the original Gerrymander look like a simple geometric figure.

Oh allright, I used the wrong term.

Frankly, a lot of people feel that if “their guy” loses they have no choice but to go along with the other plan whether they support it or not. They may have to pay more taxes, or abide by laws that they are against morally. I understand about the social contract, but when you boil it down it amounts to nothing more than might makes right on the part of the government.

When you are talking about millions of people in the opposition is it fair for the small margin to determine the course, or is there a better way to govern?

I think you are forgetting that there are 50 States in our country, each with their own legislature. Not all laws are Federal. You have the opportunity to vote in your State as well and if you don’t like the laws of your state, you are certainly able to vote with your feet and move to another State with laws more suited to you.

I like 50%+1 myself.

The OP is making it sound like 49% of the American people take it up the pooper after every election.

In reality, the Constitution gives the minority of political opinion a significant amount of protection. We all have the right to free speech. The process for passing laws is biased in favor of inaction. The courts are open to those with legitimate grievances, be it popular or unpopular. The filibuster in the Senate has long been used as a last refuge against rampant democracy.

So just like the OP says, while “pure” democracy may (?) work well in small groups, we are a long, long way from a pure democracy. I’d like to see some specific examples of why our Federal government, with majority rule and minority rights, isn’t actually working.

I think you’re being WAY too monolithic in thinking about power is distributed in America. Even if “their guy” loses (I presume you’re thinking about a Presidential candidate), people still get a chance to vote for Senators and Congressmen to represent them in Washington, not to mention (because **msmith537 **already has :slight_smile: ) the dozens of officeholders and ballot initiatives at the state and local levels. Another election is never more than two years away, and people have the right and abilty to organize and lobby their representatives for their preferred policy outcomes between elections.

It seems to have worked fine in Bush’s mind.

I don’t often do political threads, so go easy on me here.

Let’s try it this way.

Suppose that in a given election candidate A supports going to war, and candidate B does not. we will also assume that the vast majority of voters for each candidate share those views. Now candidate A wins the election and takes us off to do battle for Mom and apple pie. (let’s leave the specific checks and balances aside here and speak in generalities if at all possible) Since President A only won by a very small margin, is it fair to spend the tax dollars of roughly half the population on a cause that they adamantly do not support? It doesn’t seem so to me.

On an issue on which there are only 2 choices, is it not better to do what the majority wants? What else would you do?

Right, but if you do not go to war then that would be fine for the people who voted against it, but unfair to the people who did. There may be legitimate reasons for the war, and it may be important to the security of the country. So which do you choose? There will always be scenarios where compromise is not possible (unless you go to war on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and stay at home on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays), and a decision has to be made that many people will not go along with. There is no good way around this, and a 50%+1 deciding split seems about the best that can be done.

That isn’t even taking into account that sometimes the best decisions are not the popular decisions, which is why I like the indirectness of the American system (and most other real life democratic systems). You elect leaders who you feel are capable of making intelligent decisions, you don’t vote on every single item that the government has to decide on.

I think this is an excellent thread. And I am enjoying reading it. Thank you, Ravenman and others, for contributing.

But the checks and balances were put in there specifically to deal with this problem. It’s like saying “ignoring things like smoke detectors and fire departments, aren’t potential house fires a tremendous threat?”

In the old days there was the concept of a mandate. A candidate who got lots of votes (like LBJ in '64) had one, and could charge full steam ahead on his plan. A candidate who squeaked by was supposed to reach across the aisle, to create policy that could win support of more than 50% + 1. Only Bush in my memory got less than 50% and acted as if he got 70%.
I don’t know how exactly one expects to share the presidency, anyhow.

Regionalism. It’s a big problem for democracy to have a country as monolithic as the U.S. If it were a looser confederation of half a dozen countries it would be easier to represent people’s wishes.

Yep. The Founding Fathers were well aware of a tyranny of the majority and specifically sought to minimize it. Here’s what James Madison had to say about it (bolding mine):

Wonderful cite. Thank you, Whack-A-Mole.

Come on folks, let’s keep it up. Keep going. This is great. The SDMB ‘Great Debates’ at it’s finest, in my opinion.

This would be ignoring reality though. The President CAN’T just take us to war indefinitely on his own. He needs support of Congress to do so (because they are the one’s who would allocate the funds).

You many say at this point, yeah…but we went to war in Iraq and I didn’t approve. And today the majority of American’s don’t approve either. And you’d be right. But when Bush was re-elected the issue was more finely balanced. Additionally, there has been a sea change in the make up of the Congress as well. As voters get fed up with the policies being enacted in our names they have a recourse…they get rid of those people responsible and get a new set in.

Still you may say, I don’t agree with it so why should it be. Thing is, them’s the breaks when dealing with a nation state. We elect officials to represent us…to represent the MAJORITY of us. We have checks in so that the minority don’t get completely trampled, but in the end we are run by the majority. If the majority opinion changes and our elected officials don’t move with that change then we get a new set of politicians in to do our bidding.

Such is life in a democratic nation that spans a continent. Sometimes the majority of your fellow citizens elect someone who says or does things you don’t agree with. Just see how some folks feel when Obama is at the helm in a couple of months. You have to live with it and hope that next time someone closer to your own ideals and philosophy gets elected. Don’t feel bad…there is zero chance that anyone even close to MY ideals and philosophy will EVER get elected. :slight_smile: Somehow I’ll muddle through though.