March 6, 2009

Tyranny of the minority

Our nation's Founders were a bunch of wealthy, white male aristocrats nervous about exposing their property to the "tyranny of the majority" even though the "majority" they feared was limited to other white males who were less wealthy.

Besides reading Greek and Latin our Founding Fathers could count and they fully understood that the "have-nots" always out-numbered the "haves." So they worried that the majority would soon take away their property.

But what about the tyranny of the minority, the folks who embrace majority rule except when the majority view differs from theirs? I'm not talking about people trying to change majority sentiment through reason and debate. I'm talking about impassioned zealots who, convinced of their own self-righteousness, feel free to lie, cheat and ignore the rule of the law.

The recent furor over Maryland's death penalty is a good example. Every survey ever taken shows a clear majority of Marylanders support capital punishment. But the enlightened minority knows better. To them the majority view doesn't deserve respect because it's based on ignorance and barbarianism. Likewise, Maryland's death penalty statute need not be respected by governors sworn to enforce it.

After he was safely re-elected, Gov. Parris Glendening became an anti-death penalty advocate who suspended all executions until a two-year racial bias study could be conducted. Gov. Martin O'Malley has also suspended executions for more than two years by delaying some simple, court-ordered lethal injection protocols. His excuse? He wants to give the legislature a couple of years to repeal the statute.

The state constitution doesn't permit governors to pick and choose which laws to enforce, or to suspend statutes pending studies, or to delay enforcing laws they don't like. But that's what's happened in Maryland — one man's will overruling the legislature, the courts and the people.

Equally breathtaking is the level of disinformation and outright untruths coming from the anti-death penalty lobby and passed on, as gospel, by a complicit media. For instance, Maryland's death penalty is …

-Racially biased: Baloney! This claim relies on data that even a sixth-grader knows is skewed. More than two-thirds of Maryland's murders occur where prosecutors virtually never seek the death penalty so any so-called "study" of death penalty cases omits two-thirds of the sample. In other words, we end up pretending that Baltimore County's data somehow reflects the entire state, an obvious untruth never challenged by the media.

-Does not deter murders: The proof? Capital punishment states have higher murder rates than non-capital punishment states. Again, phony data. Murder rates depend on many factors beyond the existence of a death penalty statute. If it's not a deterrent, how come so many murderers plea bargain to avoid it?

-Too costly and punishes victim's families: Wow! First the anti-death penalty lobby creates a 10-year appeals process, delays executions with every frivolous legal defense imaginable and then proclaims the system too long and costly. How disingenuous can you get?

-Likely to execute the innocent: It breaks the anti-death penalty crowd's heart that, in fact, no one can prove a wrongful execution anywhere in the USA. The five murderers executed in Maryland since 1978 were all guilty as sin as are death row's five current inmates.

Add to these myths the media's portraying Governor O'Malley as a "long time capital punishment opponent" courageously risking his political life by defending his Catholic beliefs. What a crock.

Like Glendening, O'Malley is a late-comer to the movement. Do you remember Mayor O'Malley crusading against capital punishment? Do you remember gubernatorial candidate O'Malley running against the death penalty? No, O'Malley's beliefs crystallized about the same time the public opinion polls showed a majority shift against the death penalty among Maryland Democrats. (A majority of all voters remain in favor.)

In other words, O'Malley is playing to the media and to blacks, the most important Democratic voting bloc. If O'Malley really wanted to demonstrate courage he'd support his church's stand against Maryland's abortion statute — political suicide.

Last week, when O'Malley's repeal bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the losers — the tyrannical minority — simply changed the rules. Ignoring the sacrosanct committee system, the bill went to the full Senate because, as the bill sponsor put it, "This isn't about rules or regulations, it's about principle." Hers!

But on the floor, the repeal bill was gutted, replaced, instead, by some tighter evidentiary rules, not what O'Malley and the repeal lobby wanted.

Last week, Governor O'Malley told reporters that if the repeal bill failed he wants a public referendum. Problem is, there's no legal method for putting a failed bill on the ballot. Only enacted bills can got to referendum, by petition.

But, hey, we'll change those rules, too. Why let a silly state constitution get in the way of minority rule.

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