In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Even so, I’m willing to go on record as saying people predicting an impending civil war or the imminent breakup of the United States are quite mistaken.
For all the turmoil and bad feeling abroad in the land, not to mention on the internet, the things that bind Americans together as a people are far stronger than the things that divide us. Which is the main reason I believe that a partisan Supreme Court’s efforts to impose what amounts to a “tyranny of the minority” upon the nation as a whole are destined to fail.
One way or another, people just aren’t going to have it.
Now, my own sense of patriotism may differ from yours. If I never again hear that dreadful, chest-beating Lee Greenwood song, that will be too soon. I’ve come to dislike the unholy racket of July Fourth celebrations almost as much as my poor terrified dogs do. (Even Martin, my orange tabby sleeping companion, came running in around midnight, slinking about 2 inches off the floor.) The infernal noise went on for another hour.
It doesn’t help that here in Arkansas, the temperature’s always somewhere between 95 and 100 on Independence Day -- the absolute worst time of year.
So, when do I experience patriotic zeal? Well, the opening weekend of March Madness, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, never fails to inspire me with Woody Guthrie-style emotion. All those striving teams from all those far-flung American places. What a wonderful country!
It’s been a while, but I used to drive every summer from Arkansas to an old friend’s ranch outside Livingston, Montana — 26 hours each way, intoxicated by the beauty of the unfolding landscape. Nothing made me happier than stopping for a greasy truck-stop breakfast somewhere in western Nebraska. Have you seen the remote beauty of the Sand Hills? You should.
Having grown up in overcrowded New Jersey, I’ve always loved wide-open spaces. Accompanied by a couple of slumbering basset hounds, I’d be singing to myself all the way:
“This land is your land, this land is my land.
“From California to the New York island. ...
“This land was made for you and me.”
One year, I rented Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” audiobook from a bookstore in Cody, Wyoming, for the drive home.
Pulling into Little Rock two days later with a couple of hours remaining, I was tempted to roll on to Memphis just to learn how the story ended.
But here’s the problem: The seven states I drove through —Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana — have a combined 14 U.S. senators: 13 conservative Republicans and Montana Democrat Jon Tester.
Their combined populations add up to roughly 14 million, give or take.
California and New York alone have around 60 million citizens between them, and just four U.S. senators, all Democrats.
The Founding Fathers couldn’t have anticipated that, any more than they could AR-15 assault rifles. There are small states that lean Democratic, yes. But the power imbalance between what H.L. Mencken called “The Cow States” and the nation’s urban population has created sustained partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. Add the undemocratic filibuster, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get anything useful done.
Hence the “tyranny of the minority.”
“Our current system,” notes Dan Kennedy of Media Nation, “favors geography over people and the interests of the minority over those of the majority.”
The Jan. 6 insurrection, The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie writes, along with “the partisan lawmaking of the Supreme Court have thrown those counter-majoritarian features of the American system into sharp relief.”
By overturning Roe v. Wade, the court has created a crisis of legitimacy, Bouie adds, where “the fundamental rights of hundreds of millions of Americans are functionally overturned by an unelected tribunal whose pivotal members owe their seats to a president who won office through the mechanism of the Electoral College, having lost the majority of voters in both of his election campaigns.”
As I write, several Cow State Republican governors have found themselves unable to answer reporters’ questions about whether a 10-year-old girl in Ohio should be forced to deliver her rapist’s child. Children having children.
The tyranny of the minority, indeed.
Actually, there’s no real constituency anywhere in America for such a grotesque policy. But it’s amazing none of these politicians had thought up a sensible answer. They haven’t had to partly because the Supreme Court’s Roe ruling was written by partisan hothouse flowers with little experience of the outside world.
So now the Supreme Court has announced its intention to delve into what’s called the “independent state legislature theory,” according to which GOP-dominated legislatures could override their own states’ voters in presidential elections — pretty much what soon-to-be-disbarred Trump lawyer John Eastman tried to pull off in 2020.
One way or another, the American people won’t let that happen.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.