Majority Needs Protections from the Tyranny of the Minority

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Nancy West photo

Garry Rayno is's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.


The framers and founders of our republic did many things to prevent the tyranny of the majority.

Preventing the tyranny of the majority is essentially protecting the minority from discrimination due to the actions of the majority.

What might work for the vast majority of people and benefit them may do serious harm to others.

Centralization of government is often used as an example when localization would be more beneficial to the minority.

The separation of powers among the three branches of government is intended to be a cushion on the rule of the majority, particularly the judiciary’s power to overturn executive branch action.

The checks and balances throughout the system have not always worked. Blacks did not have real voting rights until the late 1960s and women’s suffrage did not exist for many years before women rose up and demanded they be able to vote just like men.

In those instances the rights of minorities were not protected by the government.

While the founding fathers did provide a number of avenues to protect the rights of the minority, they did little to address what today is one of America’s most significant problems: the tyranny of the minority.

Both here in New Hampshire and in Washington, the governmental power is swinging to the minority and there are few legal protections for the majority who disagree except voting the offenders out of office.

The problem is the offenders have two years to do significant damage to the majority before the voters can speak, and with gerrymandering alive, well and flourishing — particularly in New Hampshire — the will of the majority may never be what drives government.

Watching what happened in Washington DC this week as the US House tried to elect its Speaker is a graphic example of the tyranny of the minority.

Twenty far-right extremist — many who helped the former President in his coup attempt two years ago to the day — held up the the other 415 members as Kevin McCarthy gave away the store to become Speaker, and probably the weakest one in history as his continued service as its leader may be challenged by just one member.

The philosophical bent of the 20 holdouts in the GOP is deconstruction, not construction and power not governance.

Perhaps the key issue for many of the gang of 20 is the country’s debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling has been raised numerous times under both Republican and Democratic presidents and Republican and Democratically controlled Congresses without controversy. The last time the ceiling became an issue was in 2011 when the Republican Congress balked at increasing the ceiling under the Obama administration without future spending cuts and the rating agencies lowered the country’s rating making it more expensive to issue debt for the federal, state and local governments.

Republicans did much the same in 2013 seeking to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Reportedly McCarthy agreed to allow the debt ceiling to be held hostage to reduce spending for Social Security and Medicare as other retirement accounts.

The gang of 20 is lucky many of them are in highly gerrymandered districts or they would be looking for another career in two years.

And the question is does the majority of Americans want to see people on Social Security and Medicare lose their benefits or people about to retire have reduced benefits when people have paid into the system for 50 or 60 years. 

Past presidents have found there is little support among the American people for major changes to the system.

If the United States defaults on its debt, which would be the result of not raising the limit, the world’s economy and its dependence on the dollar as the currency of record, would be at risk and that is what Putin and others have in mind. They want to return to the gold standard, which would sink this country’s economy and others as well.

And The gold standard is the goal of libertarians and oligarchs who seek a return to power like “the old days.”

The gang of 20 also wants to curtail funding the war in Ukraine after the United States and its European allies have spent billions trying  to stop Putin from advancing into other countries while protecting Ukrainian democracy.

Polling shows the majority of Americans agree with supporting Ukraine.

The gang of 20 also wants to investigate the investigators, the January 6th Committee, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There appears to be little support for such things and little in the way of any policy proposals from the minority crew except the destruction of government as it exists.

The last two years, the same kind of legislating has plagued New Hampshire with a minority of Free Staters and Libertarians controlling the agenda in the Legislature.

Although they comprise less than one-quarter of the Legislature, the GOP’s slim majority in the House the past two years, gave them an outsized influence on legislation as they could hold hostage any bill including the budget package.

They used their influence to enhance the war on public schools and what can be taught, the issues of vaccines and masks, abortion and allowing boutique medicine to gain a foothold in the state and all will drive up costs for the majority of people who do not approve.

The Education Freedom Account program was sold as a way for low-income parents to provide a more appropriate education for their children, but 70 to 75 percent of the millions of dollars the program costs pays some of the tuition for students already in private or religious schools.

If supporters are successful in removing the income limits to participate in the program, it will become a subsidy program for all parents of students already in private or religious schools without regard to how much money they make or their trust funds.

That is not something that will benefit the majority of people in the state, nor does it have support among the majority citizens who support public schools.

The legislature will deal with a number of bills this session to further restrict abortion rights, including a bill that would essentially end abortions similar to those approved in Texas, Florida and another dozen states with the repeal of Roe vs. Wade.

There is majority support for abortion rights in the state according to a number of polls, just as there is for legalizing marijuana, but that won’t make it through the majority of Senate Republicans who oppose legalization, putting a check on the House and saving Gov. Chris Sununu from having to veto legalization.

While there are protections against the tyranny of the majority, there is little legal recourse against the tyranny of the minority, which has become one of the far-right’s political strategies.

It is effective because so many of the US House seats are gerrymandered by state legislatures and the recipients of the work to guarantee partisan advantage never have a competitive race in the general election.

The tyranny of the minority is also effective because many who do not necessarily agree with their agenda go along or you could say enable the few to make them successful.

I doubt any of this is how the founders intended democracy to work.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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