The tyranny of the minority in real time
Copenhaver is a Millennial Mentor, Amazon #1 Best Selling Author, Host of “The Changemaker Podcast”, Keynote Speaker, Executive Coach, Former Mayor of Augusta, and Founding Partner of #StartsWithUs.
I have long had concerns about the growing power of the “tyranny of the minority” with regards to wielding undue influence at all levels of government. Having spent nine years serving as Augusta, Georgia’s mayor, I saw tangible and troubling examples of this concept arise on an ongoing basis throughout my time in office. Generally, all a small group of very vocal citizens had to do to influence the outcome of almost any vote by the governing body in their favor was to simply pack our commission chambers with a loud and raucous group.
I can’t even count the number of times I witnessed this scenario play out where professional staff and legal recommendations on votes, many which would have benefited the majority of the citizens we served, were cast aside in the face of an angry mob in a chamber with a total seating capacity of 212. To put this into perspective, a maximum of 212 people in those chambers represents .106 percent of Augusta’s total population of just over 200,000. To call this the tail wagging the dog would be a vast understatement but it didn’t stop my colleagues from voting to appease the vocal minority and subsequently bask in their praise from those gathered in a silo of governmental dysfunction.
However, the local examples of this troubling phenomenon I witnessed pale in comparison to the events, and the potentially catastrophic consequences, which unfolded in Congress on October 3rd. I honestly believe the removal of Congressman Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House led by Congressman Matt Gaetz with the support of seven other Republican congressmen exemplifies the most egregious example of the tyranny of the minority our nation has ever seen.
In demonizing a bipartisan, albeit temporary, solution to keep our government open and avoid the inevitable negative impact a shutdown would have on millions of Americans, this small group’s shortsighted action has flown in the face of the vast majority of Americans who want to see representatives of both parties participating in solving the critical issues facing our nation in bipartisan fashion. Evidence of the majority of our nation’s citizens supporting bipartisan action was provided earlier this year with a Newsnation/Decision Desk HQ poll revealing 75% of Americans agree that, “members of Congress should be willing to compromise and prioritize bipartisan legislation over standing with their party.”
Although Matt Gaetz portrays himself as a voice of the people, consider these statistics. Last year Congressman Gaetz was elected with 197,349 total votes representing 67% of the votes cast in the 1st Congressional District of Florida. Impressive, right? But also consider the total population of District 1 is 785,773, so Mr. Gaetz’s vote total represents the support of 25% of his total constituency. And when broken down against America’s total population of 326.7 million, his vote total represents the support of .06% of our nation’s citizenry. Yet this one man, with virtually no seniority in our nation’s Congress, was able to orchestrate the removal of a Speaker of the House for the first time in our nation’s history. Mr. Gaetz has made the point that the Speaker of the House should be a person who members of Congress can trust.
As the world looks on with very real concerns for the survival of America’s democracy past the 2024 election cycle, the actions we’ve just witnessed in Congress are a very public and blatant display of the extreme polarization which threatens to tear our democracy apart. The fact that a small group of extremely insular elected officials could create this type of chaos should cause great concern to citizens throughout our nation. These individuals may receive praise, cheers and adulation in the silos and echo chambers where they find comfort, but I’m hopeful the American people will take notice and see this for the power play that it is and the unquestionable undermining impact these actions have on the future of our democracy.