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What about the majority?

By By Trent Lott / u.s. senator
Sept. 7, 2003
Some Americans feel the essence of America's freedom is its ability to protect minority viewpoints from the so-called "tyranny" of the majority's will. Yet, I don't believe our founding fathers saw democratic, majority rule as tyrannical at all, but just the opposite an expression of rule by the people.
They trusted a majority of Americans to govern themselves. Yet, some people today apparently don't trust a majority of Americans to govern themselves, and there's no better example of this than two issues which the Senate is considering partial-birth abortion and the nomination of federal judges.
I hope we'll approach these questions by asking not what we can do to protect the viewpoints of a few, but by asking: what about the majority of Americans?
An overwhelming number of Americans oppose partial-birth abortion, a procedure by which a well-developed and oftentimes full-term child in the womb is extracted and killed using surgical instruments. It's a grotesque operation that most health care professionals and ordinary citizens alike recognize as wrong.
Yet, a small but very vocal minority of Americans actually think this procedure is a good thing. They promote it, and argue on its behalf as if partial-birth abortion were something of which to be proud.
In some states, they've had their way. Partial-birth abortion is practiced. Yet, in most states, Mississippi included, partial-birth abortion is an almost universally despised procedure that doesn't have a chance of gaining widespread acceptance.
The Senate has considered another partial-birth abortion ban and passed it. I say "another" because during the Clinton Administration both the House and Senate passed such legislation numerous times, accurately reflecting the majority of Americans' opposition to the practice.
Yet, President Clinton ignored Congress and the American people by refusing to sign the ban. Even now a minority of senators are using procedural tactics trying to prevent the latest ban proposal from reaching this president's desk.
However, I am confident the latest partial-birth abortion measure will ultimately reach President George W. Bush in the Oval Office, and the wishes of a majority of Americans to ban partial birth abortion finally will soon be honored.
That's a good thing.
Federal judges
Most senators and, I dare say most Americans, also want judges on the federal bench who interpret law rather than make law from the bench. Most Americans have no problem with strong religious men and women like Mississippi's Judge Charles Pickering serving on the federal bench.
To most people, having men and women of strong moral and spiritual fiber as a judge is a positive thing. They want to see outstanding legal minds on the bench people like Miguel Estrada, President Bush's outstanding Hispanic nominee for the federal bench.
Even though both men have strong, majority support in the Senate, a few liberal special interest groups and their few Senate allies have prevented the full Senate from voting on these nominees.
In the case of Miguel Estrada, he finally withdrew his nomination on Sept. 4. Even though most judicial scholars, senators and most Americans feel he would be a good judge, Miguel Estrada a Honduran immigrant who rose to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School will never have that chance because a small and vocal minority superseded the will of a majority, defeating him.
Judge Pickering's nomination remains on the table. Most Mississippians of all races, political backgrounds and economic backgrounds recognize Charles Pickering as an outstanding judge and exemplary human being.
Yet a few senators thus far have prevented his getting a vote by the full Senate. They know a majority of senators will vote to confirm Judge Pickering, but, to them, their narrow political agenda seems more important.
I hope they will allow Judge Pickering's nomination to move forward for the good of our country, and I will continue to work for his confirmation.
America could use a good dose of majority rule on these and other issues. It's time we started worrying less about the viewpoints of a few and started asking: What about the majority of the American people?
Write to U.S. Senator Trent Lott at 497 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.