Ari (Ballaban) Jun — In Conversation
Ohio & Israel: Whose Majority Rules?
The irony isn’t lost on me.
Although these positions appear to be at odds, there is a fundamental logic to their collocation. It has little to do with whether 50% or 60% should be the baseline for changing societal rules; it has everything to do with the why and how—with fair and foul play. In both cases, unpopular, entrenched political groups seek to ossify the political status quo—this, so they can do as they wish without having to fear recourse from courts or voters.
In Ohio—despite laws prohibiting it—our Statehouse is astoundingly and entrenchedly gerrymandered. (For point of reference, in 2022’s OH State Senate elections, the results for seats were 57.43% Republican, 42.23% Democrat. Meanwhile, Republicans hold 78.8% of seats in the chamber—25 of 33 spots.) So, when the legislature makes a move to eliminate one of the few remaining majoritarian institutions—the right to amend the law by majority vote—it effectively seeks to cement its own anti-democratic power.
In turn, in Israel, Netanyahu’s coalition is deeply unpopular. Surveys show that—were elections held today—he would probably lose his majority. Likewise, the specifics of the changes beings sought (and, to some extent, now passed) are not reflective of the will of most Israelis. There have been major efforts by centrists—including President Herzog—to find areas of common ground for judicial reform that would be perceived as less extreme. But the majority has forged ahead, eliminating longstanding forms of judicial oversight for the parliament without any compromise whatsoever.
What these cases have in common are disempowered majorities, facing bureaucratic obstacles, seeking to retain some kind of democratic process by which they can exercise rights. And it doesn’t take people in either country much work to sniff out the foul play seeking to keep them from holding the power they know they ought to have.
As an organization, we continue to monitor the situation in Israel—in which unprecedented numbers of Israelis are standing up to say enough is enough. Likewise, we seek to head off a similar crisis in Ohio. Come Tuesday, we’ll finally find out what happens.