Throughout American history, majoritarianism has been the dominant and usually winning political ideology. But throughout that history there’s been a persistent contrary view as well: the idea that majoritarianism isn’t the ideal but actually a problem in itself. This was the core principle of John C. Calhoun, the great ideologue of pro-slavery ideology in the decades before the Civil War. This anti-democratic ideology took further root in the final decades of the 19th century as the native born, the wealthy and the white looked for a framework to justify excluding African-Americans and an expanding population of immigrant Slavs, Jews and southern Europeans from the vote and other kinds of democratic inclusion.
Now, we can treat it as a separate matter that what we see as the country’s democratic principles have been as often honored in the breach as the fulfillment. Moreover, much of American constitutionalism is bound up with protecting the rights of minorities against untrammeled majorities. Here though I’m focused on something distinct and separate: the creation of anti-majoritarian ideologies, fully articulated arguments for why democratic majorities should not in fact, as a matter of principle, hold political power.
And here I want to focus on a passage in an NPR write-up about redistricting which features a quote from Scott Walker, until recently the Governor of Wisconsin and now heading up the GOP committee trying to protect gerrymandering.