Not So Fast, Senator Cornyn

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Not So Fast, Senator Cornyn

During yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) began a question by voicing his concern about court decisions that aren't in sync with public opinion.

Citing words from the Declaration of Independence, Cornyn said that the laws and decisions that come from all three branches of government should be "based on the consent of the governed." Of course, the Texas Republican left out a few pertinent points:
* The Declaration of Independence is a document that was written to outline the reasons why the colonies were officially "dissolv[ing] the political bands which have connected them with" Britain. It was not a document intended to explain how the new nation's government would function. And it was written at a time when there was no Supreme Court. Someone should remind Cornyn that the document that outlines the structure of our government is called the Constitution.

* Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote those words ("the consent of the governed") was no fan of unbridled majority rule. In his first inaugural address, Jefferson asked Americans to "bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate (these rights) would be oppression." And James Madison also warned of the potential dangers of relying on "pure democracy." The final word belongs to Douglas Gwyn, an author and Quaker theologian: "Truth is not determined by majority vote."

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