Since the dawn of democracy, the notion of majority rule has been the accepted norm for decision making, however, recent years have seen a rise of what is being called the “tyranny of the extreme minority”. This term refers to the power that a small group of individuals, typically from a non-elected political body, can have over the legislative process.
Recently, this minority group has been highlighted in the US House of Representatives where certain House traditions have enabled them to block or influence legislation and at times, dictate the agenda of the legislature.
These traditions allow a small number of Representatives, typically just a handful, to take control of the chamber. Such traditions include a vigorous House debate process, often referred to as the “motion to recommit”, which enables any Representative to introduce multiple amendments to the original legislation. This can delay a vote and work up other legislators to oppose the proposed legislation.
Furthermore, the rule of “unanimous consent” is another tradition that allows a small number of Representatives to block the passage of a bill. This requires at least one Representative to object to the unanimous consent process to put a halt to any motions or votes.
This practice has been highly criticized as it clearly allows only a small minority to gain control of the legislative process and create unnecessary hurdles for the majority. This essentially goes against the democracy and certainly gives rise to the “tyranny of the extreme minority”.
However, by introducing a few simple reforms such as reducing the amount of time permitted for debate and the unanimous consent process, the minority’s power can be reduced. It is important that action is taken to protect the entire House of Representatives from being exploited and manipulated by a small number of legislators.