James Madison
James Madison

In Essay 10 of the Federalist Papers, James Madison warned that political factions were capable of taking control of democratic governments and marginalizing the opposition, and today, 227 years after Federalist No. 10 was published, Madison’s fears about “the tyranny of the majority” are playing out in Thailand.

Thailand’s opposition Democratic Party is calling for boycotts to elections scheduled for Sunday, February 2. The current ruling Pheu Thai party has been in power for the last thirteen years, and the Democrats accuse Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration of major abuses of power and deliberate vote purchasing. While the Democrats are composed largely of the upper classes and the bourgeoisie, the Pheu Thai Party has appealed to the lower classes by enacting a populist agenda. The Democrats claim the ruling party’s policies are riddled with corruption and detrimental to the country, but even they admit that if elections are held on February 2, the Pheu Thai will certainly win.

The Democrats are attempting to block the elections because the Thailand Constitution requires 95 percent of seats in Parliament to be filled, and currently not enough candidates have registered to meet the quorum. The protesters hope that a postponement of elections would lead to a transitional government that is friendlier to the upper and middle classes, but the government has threatened to use the military to ensure that the elections occur. With a dozen anti-government protesters killed already, many observers worry that widespread violence will cripple the country.

The protests in Thailand should remind us of the astounding foresight of our Founding Fathers. Embedded in the US Constitution are safeguards for minority rights and provisions that make it difficult for a simply majority to fully control the government. Almost all Americans are unhappy with Congress’s inability to pass meaningful legislation, but Thailand’s problems show that the situation could be much worse. We Americans can at least be thankful that our Founding Fathers devised a government that protects us from the grave dangers of a dictatorial majority.

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