Minority Report

I am not sure, but I think this may be my first post concerning a current political issue, other than elections, that is being talked about in the news and my corner of the social/digital universe.

If you live under a rock, or just do not pay attention to news or politics, here is the gist. There are international talks underway concerning the nuclear development program in Iran (I know, right? When aren’t there international talks concerning the nuclear development program in Iran?). The United States, Russia, China, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are attempting to negotiate a deal with Iran, which is beginning to sound promising.

A little while back the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, came and spoke to the Congress of the United States at the request of House Speaker John Boehner, not the President. Following the speech, freshman senator Tom Cotton wrote an open letter to the  “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which has, predictably drawn considerable criticism. Just do a google search for “letter to Iran,” and see for yourself.

Having read the letter, and doing my very best to keep my bias removed from this line of thought, I can see where the writer is coming from, and the point he is trying to convey. However (there is always an however), the way the letter is written reeks of condescension. It reads as a mini-lecture on American civics given to middle-schoolers. I cannot comprehend the level of self-importance that the language conveys.

The writer, and those that signed, are members of a collective body whose voice is supposed to be singular. They each are one member and one vote within a body of one-hundred. At best, the body can be interpreted as representatives from 50 individual states. Even then, they are a delegation of two. Yet, one sovereign body it is, as defined by the Constitution, Article I. Forty-seven senators, including the writer, signed the letter that is written on a piece of paper with the letterhead “United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510.”

Trying to look beyond the patronizing language sent to leaders and the head of state of another sovereign nation, there is another level of self-importance over which I cannot get. Forty-seven signatures beneath a letter written beneath a letterhead representing one body made up of one-hundred delegates. Do the math. Forty-seven out of one-hundred is forty-seven percent. That is not a majority. How self-involved does one have to be to believe that what is decidedly less than a majority represents the opinion of a collective body?

Had the senator written this letter under his office’s letterhead, I could understand that. But, by using the letterhead of the United States Senate, he, and the other signers, attempted to use the august body of the Senate to give greater credence to a minority opinion and their individual benefit. Yet, nowhere in his letter does he stipulate that this point of view is of the minority.

I believe it would serve the senator from Arkansas well to have any other open letters he wishes to send to leaders or heads of state written by his communications staffers. Yes, he may very well be representing the interests of his constituents in Arkansas, but when he is attempting to represent the Senate of the United States, he is representing many more people, and, clearly, according to the number of agreeing signatures, the minority in this case.

I do not know if this is the first case of a minority opinion being sent on official United States Senate letterhead to leaders of another nation, but it sure as hell should be the last.

Partisan rhetoric aside, the minority opinion does not represent the opinion of a body that represents the whole country. It would do well for Mr. Cotton and the forty-six other senators that support him, including the two from my state, to remember that. The Senate was not established to represent individual or minority points of view. In the Senate, the majority rules.

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2 thoughts on “Minority Report

  1. It’s interesting you make a point to say 47% of the Senate is not the majority. You’re right. But this can only be true in a farce of democracy like our two-party system. If we were like any other functioning republican government (the type of government, not the Republican party, mind you), 47% could easily be a powerful majority among more than two parties in the federal government. We have hundreds of millions of voters in the U. S. and only two parties represent them in any meaningful capacity? Bollix.

    I wonder also if these 47 Senators represent as much a unity of political party as a unity of bias against potential policy itself, whether or not it could be destructive and dangerous in the long term. Which is worse–unreasonable representatives refusing to consider diplomatic steps internationally because party leaders tell them to, or because lobbyists against such a policy pay them to? I don’t like either one.

  2. Thanks for your comment. In response to your last question, I am in agreement. To the first part of the last paragraph, “I wonder also…,” I would argue that it is a matter of both. Republicans that did not sign the letter have voiced their agreement with it, but have criticized the method. In response to your first paragraph, the system was not designed to be a two-party system. Nowhere in any of the government’s founding document does it state such. It’s not the system’s fault, but ours for allowing it to happen.

    As far as the majority rule goes, that’s how it’s set up, and I am all for that. By mandating that a 50+1 majority be required for passage of any bill or resolution, it gives those that might be in the minority on any given issue a fighting chance and, most of the time, requires compromise to build a coalition of a majority. This all works well in theory and the framers were truly ahead of their time when they put this together. However, as you allude to, the current two-party system skews the idea of constituent representation, and the theory the framers used to construct Congress kind of gets blown to hell. Though (there is always a though, isn’t there?), the framers may have had this in mind when stipulating the separation of powers and providing for the avenue of an independent and sovereign judiciary. The judiciary is able to play the role of protector for the minority from the tyranny of the majority, but then, two-party politics tends to get in the way there, too.

    Thanks again for commenting!

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