Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Do we live in a democracy, or do we have a democratic system?

I watched NBC's "Nightly News" tonight (4/17/2013), and I learned that a bill to enact universal background checks for gun purchases had been "defeated" in the Senate.  They reported that four Republicans had voted in favor of the bill (actually, an amendment to a bill), but four Democrats had voted against.  That didn't make any sense to me, because I knew that Democrats held a majority in the Senate, so four votes switching both ways would still leave a Democratic majority.

It was only later, listening to a different news show, that I learned that the amendment had been "defeated" by a vote of 54 ayes and 46 nays.  Yes, a bill was "defeated" because it got only 54% of the vote, which is "only" a majority.

Ignoring for the moment whether the Senate is a democratic institution, or whether a vote of a majority of Senators would reflect a vote of a majority of the American people, the problem still remains that, if the Senate is supposed to be a representative body, and if a majority of Senators can't act for the Senate, then something is terribly and fundamentally wrong.

So the question raised at the beginning of this post, "do we have a democratic system?" can be answered, and the answer is "no," we do not.