Majority Rule

Majority rule in our democratic republic is more complicated than we like to think.

For one thing, our particular form of government carves out matters that are specifically insulated from what the Founders called the “passions of the majority”–the individual liberties enumerated and “reserved to the people” by various provisions of the Bill of Rights. For another, in those areas where majority opinion is supposed to count, our mechanism for determining what a majority of citizens really wants  is the vote–and not every citizen entitled to cast a vote does so. (The differences between what popular majorities want and what gets enacted can often be seen by comparing polling and survey research with legislation passed by victorious candidates.)

And don’t get me started on the Electoral College.

Then there’s the distortion regularly provided by media–very much including Twitter and Facebook, etc. We too often assume that the loudest and most persistent voices reflect the opinion of majorities–and that is not a well-founded assumption.

Take, for example, the issue of vaccine mandates.

A recent report by the Brookings Institution’s William Galston suggests that requiring vaccination is a lot more popular than we might imagine if we only listened to the hysterical purveyors of misinformation and conspiracy theories. (Recently, those vaccine deniers were accurately–if intemperately–labeled “assholes” by the Mayor of West Lafayette, Indiana. I don’t know him, but I’m pretty sure I’d really like him.)

Galston did a deep dive into the data. Not surprisingly, he found that unvaccinated Americans were less concerned about COVID than those who’d had the sense to get vaccinated.

In the face of massive evidence to the contrary, more than half of unvaccinated adults regard getting vaccinated as a bigger risk to their health than is getting infected with the coronavirus. Only one in five of the unvaccinated say that the spread of the delta variant has made them more likely to get vaccinated. These data do not support hopes that the recent outbreak will suffice to increase vaccination rates enough to bring the pandemic under control.

The data also reflects surprisingly robust support for vaccine mandates.

Since the beginning in March 2020, government’s response to the pandemic has occasioned intense controversy, much of it along partisan lines. Although the level of conflict remains high, recent events have solidified public support for the most intrusive policy government can undertake—mandatory vaccinations. According to a survey conducted by the Covid States Project, 64% of Americans now support mandatory vaccinations for everyone, and 70% support them as a requirement for boarding airplanes. More than 6 in 10 say that vaccinations should be required for K-12 students returning for in-school instruction as well as for college students attending classes at their institutions. And the most recent Economist/YouGov survey found that more than 60% support mandatory vaccinations for frontline workers—prison guards, police officers, teachers, medical providers, and the military—and for members of Congress as well…

“Solid majorities of every racial and ethnic group support vaccine mandates, as do Americans at all levels of age, income, and education.

The data also supports the growing recognition by sane Americans that the GOP has  devolved into a cult of anti-science, anti-evidence, crazy folks: Only 45% of Republicans support vaccine mandates, compared to 84% of Democrats.

When I sent my children to school, I was required–mandated– to provide evidence that they’d been vaccinated, and thus did not threaten the health and safety of the other children with whom they would be taught. When I was young myself, Americans lined up with gratitude to receive the polio vaccine that would allow them to avoid the alternatives–death, or imprisonment in iron lungs.

When providing for “the General Welfare” requires rules–mandates– a majority of us understand that such mandates not only do not infringe our liberties, but actually give us more liberty–allowing us to go about our daily lives without the danger of infection (or the need to wear a mask).

Vaccine mandates are supported by medical science, by law, by morality, and by a majority of Americans. We periodically need to remind ourselves that “loudest” doesn’t equate to “most”–and that a fair number of the hysterical people shouting about “personal freedom” can’t define it and don’t want their neighbors to have it.


  1. We’ve been bashing this concept of institutionalized ignorance for some time. BUT, it still creates a cloud of disbelief that so many of our fellow citizens don’t get it… and not just the vaccine. As we’ve mentioned before, logic, truth and sanity will never reach the 25% who insist on being “assholes”.

    Take Jim Jordan from my home state of Ohio… PLEASE. How on EARTH did the good people of Ohio send this whiney little bitch to Congress? Every day he tweets absurdities like the ones mentioned above. Do his constituents actually think he speaks for them? Probably. Jordan, among so many other Republicans like Scalese, McCarthy, the Loony-toons girls and of course Louis Gohmert, give credence to the old saw that there are more horse’s asses than horses.

    The disinformation campaign against vaccinations is evidence that Darwin and Wallace had it right back in the mid-19th century. Too bad that we allow these intellectually deficient idiots reproduce.

  2. Vaccine mandates should have been required out of the gate, especially once our POTUS got the virus. A logical flow to vaccinations could have easily been presented with a return to normal as the guiding force.

    Just like Gov Holcomb cowardly going to local rule on mask mandates. That’s not leadership. Even Biden pulled the coward cord when it came to the military.

    We had the State Fair in the middle of Indy. All the unvaccinated Trumpsters coming into the city. SMDH

    I passed along the Dept of Health data showing 6,000 hospitalized since last Monday and got a handful of laughs. These idiots voted for Donald Trump and believed him to be a savior of some sort. Do we really trust them to make healthcare decisions?

    The vaccine should be mandatory, but it’s just further proof that you cannot be a leader and a politician. That was my personal thesis. People don’t want to hear the truth, and you cannot make tough decisions. You have to be “popular” among the crowd you vote for you.

  3. The delta variant according to the Brookings Institute report showed a huge swing in opinion about whether the pandemic was getting better or worse. Down from 89 to 41%. Huge shifts in elected officials also had to change, but the problem also with vaccination is that in Israel a larger percentage of vaccinated are getting infected with the delta variant which means a booster shot needs developing possibly. The Pfizer vaccine was at 89% dropping to around 30-35% effectiveness there against the delta variant according to one report but overall has been very effective against it in most places.
    Schools have required vaccinations and should but the Lambda variant was being researched for a booster early on. Unfortunately for kids the delta variant is what we apparently need to go after and vaccinations are increasingly needed along with a developed booster for school she kids. The problem with society at large including officials is how they want there country to be run. Should we mandate a national vaccine with the delta variant booster.
    As we open back up the different variants being produced thru mutations and passed on will be become a major concern. The virus has touched way too many families and friends and a state by state mandate may be too slow in beating the Civid 19 virus and all its variants.
    China is going back into lock down in certain regions.
    The best thing you can do when you meet up with someone is to encourage them to understand how the virus is contained because those who are loudest are more driven by fear of whats being injected, its something they can control. What they cant control is when they catch and or spread the virus.

  4. To be effective for a population, vaccines need to be delivered to a large portion of that population. Depending on the transmissibility, the percentage needed for real control may be quite high. There are always people who can’t be vaccinated for one reason or another, often due to terrible health issues that put them at incredible risk should they get the disease. In this case the situation is even worse, as all the children are still not eligible to be vaccinated.

    Summary: you need to get vaccinated to protect those who can’t. If you really won’t protect the others around you, then you are a selfish prick.

  5. Perhaps the discussion might be more interesting if we framed the argument as majority rule versus COVID rule. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

  6. “Majority rule in our democratic republic is more complicated than we like to think.”

    Consider the Constitution, Article I, Section 2. Clause 3; “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound in service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indianans not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;…”

    It must have taken awhile to figure the known number of slaves, combining those 3/5th into one person to count as “one” of the population, to decide the population count to decide the number of Representatives allotted to the otherwise low population count in southern states. Slaves by far outnumbered the white population and the small farmers and city dwellers outnumbered the plantation owners who later made up the leadership of those who created the Confederate States of America. Those 3/5th slaves who figured into the population were never allowed to vote but determined the number of Representatives who voted on issues to govern all of the white population.

    Did I say that correctly? It certainly is complicated; and has been since Representatives were added to represent those who were not allowed to vote for or against them. Does the current count of Representatives from those now powerful southern states reflect the true population count, including all races which they are now fighting to suppress their rights to vote? This, of course, takes us to gerrymandering which will be activated soon. It takes me back to the 2020 “Trump Census” and the form I received which asked nothing beyond the number of Hispanics living in my home (using 2 questions for the answer) and the racial/ethnic makeup of all who others might reside at my address.

    I am the lone majority in my home and I am fully vaccinated and continue to mask in public places. Vaccines have always had their detractors; we still see areas of flourishing cases of “childhood diseases” caused by the few who refused to follow the mandates for those vaccines. We are watching the Congressional minority party continue their power and control over issues vital to protecting our democracy, Rule of Law and upholding the Constitution of the United States of America. Sections of the Constitution have become “complicated”, such as the 1st and 2nd Amendments, because the Founding Fathers could not foresee the hate and bigotry they tried to prevent, take over this nation in less than 6 years. The Republican states are bastardizing their own State Constitutions to maintain their minority control over local governments…and so far it is working.

    “Majority rule in our democratic republic is more complicated than we like to think.” The control of the Pandemic to protect all lives and protecting voters’ rights has now gone far beyond complicated and into the realm of lawlessness with no end in sight.

  7. At least one Founding Father was upfront about the fact that this isn’t a “democracy.” Franklin said they’d given us a republic, if we could keep it. It seems keeping a republic should be easier than keeping a democracy, simply because democracy can get pretty messy at times. Well to be honest, governing is pretty messy work regardless of the system it works under. Large majorities can be found to support all kinds of policies, but those policies get no traction in our system because we allow money to speak louder than people. So while taxpayers pay for the outcomes, donors reap the rewards.

    Vernon, thanks for the laugh.

  8. When members of the US-born Black community are polled, e.g. in DC or Philadelphia, and asked if they will get the vaccine, and 100% answer that they will not…

    then if asked their reasoning for their decision, they answer “Tuskegee,” …what public health or science based argument could be used to persuade that individual to follow CDC recommendations and receive a vaccination?

  9. Regarding the Electoral College, liberals focus on the wrong thing. The real danger isn’t that the winner of the EC might not be the popular vote winner. The real danger is the clumsy machinery used to count and certify the votes. It depends entirely on scores of local, state and federal officials doing their jobs honestly.

    On “Velshi” this morning he had an interview with a NY Times reporter who has pieced together Trump’s actions after November 3rd to overturn the result of the election. While Trump failed, many of those GOP officials who honestly did their jobs are being run out of town for being “traitors.” And the rules are quietly being changed to more easily allow state officials to disregard the will of the people in their states.

    Yet, Democrats are obsessed with modest changes to voting procedures that probably won’t make a dime’s bit of difference on who votes in the election. (I understand the changes come from a false narrative – the Big Lie.) It doesn’t matter who votes if those votes are going to be ignored.

    People vote and those votes are counted. Two separate acts. Democrats and those of us who worry about American democracy need to be a lot more worried about the latter.

    Sorry if I sound like a broken record….but this is very important. If Trump runs in 2024, the likelihood he will be successful, this time, stealing the election is much higher.

  10. NOTES.

    Stalin, who as a dictator should not have any interest in making such an observation, noted that he was more interested in who counted the votes than who or how many voted. Paul is right.

    The majority rule rule we inherited from the Athenian agoras has been nearly nullified by the wholesale use of gerrymandering, and both parties are guilty. We desperately need to give our decennial count in this connection to independent commissions and end this open invitation to minority rule.

    We are continually being told that we do not have a democracy but rather have a republic, as buttressed by Franklin’s “if you can keep it” mantra. This is not an either-or choice; we can and do have both – so far – no thanks to Trump.

  11. I think mandates would be much more effective if it came from the private sector. Many have said that if their employer mandated vaccines, they would take it rather than lose their job.

    I have heard on NPR or PBS that the feds can’t mandate vaccines except for airline travel. That definitely should be mandated. The catch 22 is that many businesses have lost a lot of profit/growth due to the pandemic. Hence, many small businesses and restaurants might find it difficult to mandate vaccines. If large corporations and industries i.e. Tyson,Amazon, GM, hospitals mandated that their employees get vaccinated, the vaccine mandate would have a greater positive impact on the number of citizens getting the vaccine.

    In some ways, unlike polio( FDR was disabled by it), COVID is a very invisible enemy. That makes it more frightening and leads people to an insane desire for control. It also,however, promotes denial in some people. Many people in more rural areas have not seen the images of people infected with the vaccine on ventilators or pleading with people to get the vaccine. I think some of them believe they are immune and that God will keep them safe. They are like the guy who died in the flood because he refused God’s offer of human rescue.

    It is so terribly tragic that so many refuse to take the vaccine with an attitude of “Give me liberty or give me death”.
    Fires, floods, a pandemic, a gun violence epidemic, and an opioid epidemic are destroying the lives of many of us. Denial of these issues is killing millions of us humans. It’s time the human race started facing facts head on and addressing these threats to the human race.

  12. I would agree with what Paul has written above:

    “While Trump failed, many of those GOP officials who honestly did their jobs are being run out of town for being “traitors.” And the rules are quietly being changed to more easily allow state officials to disregard the will of the people in their states.”

    “People vote and those votes are counted. Two separate acts. Democrats and those of us who worry about American democracy need to be a lot more worried about the latter.”

    This is also the concerns I have heard too. As a former Democratic Ward Chair, I can say the poll workers from both parties were honest, hardworking people, who did their jobs of making certain that all those who legally cast a vote, had their votes counted.

    Bottom line voting should be easy, just like being in a line at store to purchase items or order over the internet. If you order a product from Amazon or any other on line company, they make it easy to so, no matter where you live.

    There should be National Rules on voting in Federal Elections, that supersede the states rules. Like Major League Baseball the rules are the same no matter where a team plays. The rules of the game do not change to favor a certain team.

  13. Per Webster’s a “republic is”:

    “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law”

    Where are we with this?

    – “elected officers and representatives responsible to them” – check out what a significant majority of Americans want v/s what their representatives are doing

    – “governing according to law” – LOL, corruption everywhere and little done about the massive ignoring of law by The Former’s administration

    – “a body of citizens entitled to vote” – THEIR current target and they are looking accurate…

  14. Remember early stages of the pandemic before masking and several months away yet for approved vaccine? The public health directive focused on hand washing. We were nowhere close to majority rule on percentage of people who regularly washed hands correctly. A study (2013) recorded the washing behaviors into three categories: no washing (leaving the restroom without washing or rinsing their hands), attempted hand washing (wetting hands without using soap), and washing hands with soap. Observers also discreetly measured the total length of time in terms of the number of seconds subjects’ hands were placed under running water during washing, lathering, and rinsing. The result was derived from observations of 3,749 people. Only 5 percent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands for 20 seconds as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) according to the study. Thirty-three percent did not use soap, and 10 percent did not wash their hands at all. Men were particularly bad at washing their hands correctly. Among 3,749 people, 1,432 (38.2%) people wash their hands for 5–8 seconds. And we have not got to who vaccinated and who didn’t. Or who is masking and those not. We share the planet with folk who are just reckless when it comes to public health … PERIOD … pandemic or no pandemic.

  15. Gordon. Not sure where you got the idea that 100% of DC and Philly “black community” will not get vaccinated but it is total BS. I live in DC and have many friends in Philly. It is true that African Americans had a lower vaccination rate than the overall population (although the gap is closing) but I bet that more minorities are vaccinated as a percentage of the population in the DC Metro area than the entire state of IN. The Tuskegee experiment happened and there are many studies showing black Americans getting worse healthcare than other Americans so who can blame them for their reticence. My question for those in the Midwest and IN, what’s your excuse? It can’t be personal freedom because your freedom does not give you the freedom to harm me!!

  16. I remember full well standing in lines for both the Sabin and the Salk vaccines and my parents insisted on all of us being vaccinated. My oldest brother (12 years my senior) had a mild case of polio. Dad was a Republican and Mom was a Democrat and there was none of this political debate associated with being vaccinated. BTW, I’m 66 so I would have been 6 in 1960. I’m also a scientist, a social scientist never the less a scientist who understands research and analyzing data. I have an EdD which requires much more training in research than a MD or a JD.

  17. Thank you, Jeff – Gordon should learn that he won’t get away with such balderdash with this group.

    Note to Gordon – When you create bogus statistics, use decimals. Saying 98.932% is more precise and sounds more convincing, since too many people don’t understand the difference between precision (number of decimals) and accuracy (how close it is to really being true).

    Paul – You are right to keep emphasizing the importance of who counts the votes and how they do it. What frightens me more is the statement I heard on the news (not corroborated) that at least four Supreme Court Justices actually believe that the power to elect the President lies with the legislatures and that the popular vote doesn’t matter. If that is true, it is even worse that we think.

    Funny – the Founding Fathers had experienced monarchy and didn’t like it, but also feared that “democracy” would degenerate to mob rule. Now, with the structure provided, their worst fears may be realized with a small group of unrepresentative legislators dictating who will lead the country for the love of power.

    Back to vaccines and mandates – a couple of thoughts
    Smallpox exists in a couple of frozen samples – nobody catches smallpox because of mandatory vaccination.
    Polio has almost been eradicated for the same reasons. It might have happened already except for a few religious anti-vaxxer zealots attacking medical personnel in remote locations.
    Cities that mandated masks in 1918 had less deaths from influenza than cities that didn’t.

    Now – here is my real problem – “Biological Weapons Labs”

    Stop a second and think – OK – I mean what I say and those labs are the bodies of unvaccinated people catching the virus, perhaps without symptoms, and allowing the virus to mutate into newer, and perhaps deadlier forms. Remember, the first form of the virus (alpha) seemed to spare younger people, but not the delta variant. Also, looking back, the first wave of the 1918 influenza epidemic was nowhere near as deadly as the second wave.

    I have some fear of the delta variant. John S mentions the 30-35% effective rate of the Pfizer vaccine against it, but doesn’t mention that it is 88% effective against hospitalization and 91% effective against severe illness. COVID19 cases in Israel surged, but deaths only ticked up a bit. Still delta can be deadly. I also worry about the lambda variant, but I am more worried about the eventual rho, sigma, and tau variants that are now being cooked up in the bodies of anti-vaxxers. I especially worry about the sci-fi version, the omega variant, with 85% lethality and bypassing all vaccines and previous exposures.

    Mandates? Hell yes! Otherwise, do I have to “freedom” to spray Lysol in the faces of unmasked, unvaccinated people in self-defense, or perhaps even shoot the unvaccinated since I am in fear for my life?

    Sorry, but I am a but tired of our inept response, so worried about people who believe that “freedom” means the freedom to infect and murder people.

  18. The Electoral College and the filibuster drive me crazy. Each allows a minority to rule over the stated intent of the majority. It drives me so crazy that with a couple of partners, I’ve started a nonprofit called Our goal is to raise awareness of these two arcane institutional rules, the Electoral College, inscribed in the Constitution, and the filibuster, which is not.

  19. Note to Jeff and Len. Thank you for your responses.

    I wrote, “When members of the US-born Black community are polled, e.g. in DC or Philadelphia, and asked if they will get the vaccine, and 100% answer that they will not…”

    I failed to explain those were my in-person questions to several Black BLM protesters in DC and Philly.

    Every Black
    respondent gave the identical answer: they would not get the vaccine, and Tuskeegee was the reason.

    Those specific data numbers, however, are beside the point; the question in the second part of my post is far more difficult to answer:

    The question I posed in my post was,

    “…if asked their reasoning for their decision, they answer “Tuskegee,” …what public health or science based argument could be used to persuade that individual to follow CDC recommendations and receive a vaccination?”

    The respondents’ rationale, “Tuskeegee,” is a very powerful response that should cause shame in members of the US Public Health Service. Only a whistleblower alert to the AP stopped USPHS’s criminal experiment that ended in 1972.

  20. Note to Gordon
    Tuskegee was about withholding treatment
    Vaccination is about giving it

    Tuskegee was only black men
    Vaccination is for every American – that the “white elites” got the vaccine as soon as it was offered

    Just some arguements

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