Bryan Shupe, a Republican, represents Milford.
As someone who reveres history, I do not use the term “tyranny” lightly.
I believe the Delaware General Assembly best serves its citizens when our structural checks and balances impose the need for legislators of both parties to have the voice of the people they represent heard. Our Founders intelligently designed a system of government to ensure the common good through safeguards preventing any one entity from wielding too much power.
This is threatened in Delaware, where the next election could bring what historian Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority” to the First State. If the majority party in Delaware wins one additional seat in the Senate and two additional seats in the House of Representatives in the 2024 election, political party ideology will dominate and could, for generations, through constitutional changes, suppress the voice of everyday Delaware residents. Regardless of your party affiliation, this should concern you deeply, as ideas, thoughts and concerns from anyone but the ruling class will be easily ignored.
Here is how it will happen
Most bills moving through either General Assembly chamber require only a “simple majority” — any vote winning over 50% of the total will advance the measure.
Some categories of bills require “supermajority” votes. Depending on the classification of the legislation, it could require a three-fifths (60%), two-thirds (66.6%) or three-quarters (75%) majority for passage.
Elections have consequences, and the choices made by individual voters over years have created a monoculture of thought and action in the state legislature. Delaware House and Senate Democrats can already pass any bill requiring a simple majority vote, without the need for any participation by Republican lawmakers. As a result, too many such bills fail to incorporate any perspective not shared by the majority.
The imbalance is the most troubling in the Senate, where Democrats hold 15 of the 21 seats (71%). Democratic senators can pass nearly any bill — including constitutional amendments — without Republican support. There are only two exceptions to Senate Democrats’ unilateral authority: the capital budget (bond bill) and the grants-in-aid bill, both of which require a 75% supermajority. If they gain one more seat, their majority will surpass even this extreme threshold.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats control 26 of the 41 seats (63%). They are only two seats shy of surpassing a two-thirds supermajority — the advantage needed to approve a constitutional amendment. Should this be achieved in the next election, and those numbers remain constant, Democratic legislators will be able to pass constitutional amendments at will. They will be able to alter the state constitution in any way they desire, binding the actions of future General Assemblies and potentially creating dire consequences for the rights of future generations of Delawareans.
What can they change?
The most potentially impactful attempt to change the state constitution in recent years dealt with voting rights. Had the proposal passed, it would have given any majority party the unconstrained ability to enact new voting laws by simple-majority votes during the election cycle. Essentially, the ruling party would be able to change the election rules mid-game to support their own victory. Undeterred by the defeat of that amendment, House and Senate Democrats tried to impose their ambitions by ignoring the constitution and passing a bill to give them the power they sought. Fortunately, it was struck down by the Delaware Supreme Court.
The majority party has already demonstrated its bad intentions through their illegitimate actions, as several passed bills have been denied by Delaware courts because of their unconstitutionality. If they gain a sufficient supermajority, there is no reason to believe they will not continue their abusive behavior to change the state constitution to serve their partisan interests at the expense of diverse thought, sound public policy and the rights of all Delawareans.
In recent years, bills to provide a state-guaranteed income for all residents, permit demographic considerations to undermine criminal prosecutions and allow unbridled government spending have been drafted or debated in our legislature. With overwhelming supermajorities in the Senate and House, Democratic legislators will have no need for deliberation, reflection or consensus.
How long will consequences last?
Because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds supermajority in two consecutive General Assemblies to be enacted, they have lasting power. Once added to the constitution, an amendment is unlikely to be easily or quickly removed or modified. It is an even more significant hurdle if the amendment adds an expensive new entitlement, such as guaranteed universal income. Once established, such a change is unlikely ever to be undone.
What can be done?
Whether it be Democrats or Republicans, supermajorities in both legislative chambers would produce the same tragic result — an inability of minority party legislators to have any meaningful impact on public policy, disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Delaware residents.
When you look at the candidates running in the next election, I urge you not to vote based solely on party affiliation. Instead, assess them on their merits. Ask them tough questions about your community. While the national dialogue can be a great distraction, we need people who can listen to local residents and create community-driven solutions.
Ask the candidates what they will do to protect against the “tyranny of the majority.” Our system of checks and balances is essential to ensure all our voices are heard. Legislative supermajorities will not serve citizens well, producing narrow-minded extremist initiatives based on political ideology rather than pragmatic policies.
Vote for leaders who have shown a strong commitment to your community and those who will stand up for people when the majority is not listening to their concerns.
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