Lessons From American History on How to Survive Minority Rule

7 min read
fairly easy
We've been here before.
On a recent episode of Amicus, Dahlia Lithwick was joined by Heather Cox Richardson, the historian behind the popular Letters From an American newsletter, to situate the position of minority rule in which we find ourselves within a larger historical context. A portion of their conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, has been transcribed below.

Dahlia Lithwick: There is clearly a design flaw when you have gerrymandered legislative districts that are not apportioned one person, one vote. Then you have a wildly malapportioned Senate in which if you're in California or Wyoming, you have the same amount of representation. And then you have a president who did not win the majority of the votes. So it seems as though the entire structure is existing to preserve minority rule. Then larded up over that, now you have a Supreme Court that is five justices appointed by minority-majority presidents. It just feels as though, unless I'm missing something, this is a profound design flaw, where there is no way that you're going to have anything close to majority rule because it feels as though, at least in this moment, every branch of government has been designed to suppress majority will.

Heather Cox Richardson: The only place you're wrong is in the word design. The system itself is not necessarily baked to do that. We are absolutely in a moment when we have gotten to a place where we have minority rule and it is baked into the system that we currently have. But the system itself doesn't have to do that. And there are times when it has not. But one of the things that has happened at least three times in American history is we go from a period where there is a focus on equality and on rights, and when that happens, when ordinary people start to have political power, they do in fact guarantee that they retain more of the value that they produce and they want what they have done. And when that happens, the people who have tended to be able to accumulate…
Dahlia Lithwick
Read full article