Groupthink – the word has popped up quite often recently.
I have seen the word in action many times through the years in the council meetings I have covered for the various papers. The word is always alive and well in the audience.
As I recall, when I first began reading Plato's "Republic," I could never figure out why Socrates was so grouchy about democracy, even before the Athenians had a chance to off him.
For years I simply thought Plato and Socrates wore bathroom robes and funny shoes, which caused them to have kinky political ideas.
My readings about the writing of the U.S. Constitution and the government meetings I have covered during the past 20 years have changed my mind.
I think one of Plato's philosophical points and a real concern for the founders of this country is the tyranny of a pure democracy, which is why we have a republic form of government.
The power of a group of people, believing they have found the one and only fountain of truth, is tyranny. No tyrant can rule without groupthink. You either agree with them or you are out of the group. Go to a council meeting when a hot issue is boiling over. You are either with them or against them.
I will get all sorts of calls and emails about how to cover these types of stories. They call it balanced, but what they mean is suppress the other group, because we found the fountain and we are drinking the Kool-Aid.
I have many times heard council members say they are on the dais to do what their constituents demand. At that point I usually try to hit myself in the head a couple of times with the Constitution. Apparently these councillors slept through their high school class on what a republic is – representing government, not sheep herding.
What a republic form of government means continues to be as important today as it was more than 200 years ago.
There have been multiple references to Marbury v. Madison (1803) in news report regarding the health-care law before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall established the court's judicial review responsibility to decide if federal and state laws violated the Constitution.
Today, you will most often hear some guy on TV carry on about how it gives the court the right to overturn legislation.
What is not discussed is the years of discussion and disagreement that followed because Thomas Jefferson thought the court should not necessarily have that power. As he aged, he became a stronger advocate of pure majority rule and states' rights.
The debate by the founders about majority rule, democracy, the courts and how we should run our county is great reading. It continues to be just as relevant and interesting today inside the council chambers and other government meetings as it was 200 years ago.
It makes the fuming and fighting at the podium a lot more fun sometimes.