Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Checks & Balances...Reason #1 to say No to Alito
An op/ed about the historical "Democracy in America" in the NYTimes: "Alexis de Tocqueville warned that the greatest threat the US faces is the tyranny of the majority, a phrase he is credited with coining. Even a thriving democracy like America borders on tyranny. It is a subject that is particularly relevant today, w/ the president claiming he can wiretap ordinary Americans w/o a warrant, insisting on his right to imprison w/o trial anyone he labels an "enemy combatant," and warning critics of the Iraq war against "emboldening" the enemy. It was a very different America that Tocqueville was writing about in the Jacksonian Age, but the concerns he raised still resonate strongly. He worried that the state's power would end up concentrated in a single authority, until its citizens were "reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the govt is the shepherd." He feared the majority would trample on minorities, and he was concerned about tyranny of opinion, saying he knew of no country with "less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion" than the US. Tocqueville pointed to some bulwarks against tyranny. He was a firm supporter of checks and balances. He believed in the power of US law to limit the excesses of the ruler - the exact issue in today's debate over the warrantless wiretapping of US citizens. He had great hopes for the judiciary. "The courts correct the aberrations of democracy," he wrote, and "though they can never stop the movements of the majority, they do succeed in checking and directing them." Oh Tocqueville... that is precisely why we must say no to Alito. He is Bush's yes-man, and there will be no correcting of the aberrations if he is sitting on the Sup Crt.