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Morgan: An Odd Defense of an Anti-democratic Rule: We Have Always Been Bullies!


Editor's note: This column originally ran in the Blog for Arizona.

This last week, the Republican majority in the Arizona state legislature formalized a rule that requires any Democratic bill to have written support from a majority of the majority. With only a slim margin between the two parties, this means that a House bill proposed by Republicans can be passed by 31 out of 60 votes, while a Democratic bill requires 45 out of 60 to pass. A ¾ supermajority!

The defense offered by Republican leadership is that this has always been the case. It’s true that this was an informal policy, though it was sometimes violated. But it is patently unfair, as it simply fails the Golden Rule test – are they doing to the Other what they would have the Other do to them?

What about their defense, that this is nothing new, it’s always been that way? Finding exceptions from the past may not be a perfect response. A better one might be the metaphor of a man who beats his wife: the fact that this had always been their relationship is no excuse. It is simply wrong.

Arizona, like all states, needs legislators who are interested in governing for the good of the entire population. Often this simply means competent conduct of detailed processes. In short, governing should be boring. Water, education (including school safety), preserving rights for all residents: these issues require attention to detail and seeking out the best ideas from everyone. Some of the bills that have been killed have had enthusiastic support from legislators of both parties, sometimes even receiving unanimous support in committee.

Whether the policy is new or old, it is simply wrong.

Nelson Morgan, an Emeritus Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and former director of the International Computer Science Institute, is the author of “We Can Fix It: How to disrupt the Impact of Big Money on politics”, with a foreword by George Lakoff. He currently volunteers for both Indivisible and the Democratic Party, with a particular interest in redistricting (2030 is closer than you think).