American Government And Rights

The individual freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are widely regarded as essential to the maintenance of a democratic system. Specifically, the First Amendment states the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment freedoms protect the legitimacy of philosophical, political, and ethical pluralism.

The concept of pluralism entails tolerance of diversity in social, political, and religious points of view, that is, acknowledgement that different judgments on these subjects all have a right to be held and advocated. Karen O’Connor, author of the book American Government: Continuity and Change states that students must be able to understand how the American government was able to develop so that they can understand how the American government evolved over the years (O’Connor & Sabato, 2009).

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This paper looks at the different issues in the area of civil liberties encompassing women’s rights, affirmative action, and suffrage, at the same time, maintaining that these constitute vested rights of a higher order than economic or social values because civil liberties constitute the essence of the democratic political process itself. Constraints of Congress over bureaucracy The power relationships between Congress, interest groups, judiciary and bureaucracy were discussed in Chapter 12 of Politics in America by Thomas Dye, Tucker Gibson and Clay Robison.
He outlined several checks employed by Congress in terms of the bureaucracy that include its function in confirming appointments, conducting committee hearings on programs in the implementation and formulation phases, oversight functions which come in the form of congressional inquiries on the operations of the civil services and more importantly Congress use of the power of the purse or its discretion on the allocation of appropriations in checking the bureaucracy.
Other constraints of Congress over the bureaucracy is manifested in statutes that include “The Administrative Procedures Act of 1946” (APA) which mandates government instrumentalities to place proposed rules in the Federal Register, solicit comments, and hold hearings. In addition, the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA) provides citizens a formal route for compelling agencies to give out information, with some broad exceptions. Interest groups serve as lobbying agents of bureaucracy and act as watchdogs of society for erring bureaucrats.
Interest groups are called upon for their policy recommendations in congress and bureaucracy. The judiciary deliberates on cases dealing with alleged overstepping of authority and they can issue injunctions on programs of a particular government agency. Under the system, several safety nets were instituted to mitigate potential abuses by the bureaucracy as stated in the Constitution. Reforms in the bureaucracy will succeed when it is implemented in a sustainable manner and with a good dose of political will. The latter is based on prioritizing the needs of the majority and that which is geared towards the common good.
It is imperative that government officials regard themselves as public servants and not politicians; in this context they are transcending a myopic perception of their responsibility because they are primarily considering their constituents’ interest above anyone and anything else. The U. S. Constitution The U. S. Constitution has adopted an expanded meaning of the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment to incorporate progressively more of the guarantees in the federal Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights limits the national government’s criminal law and trial procedures only in federal courts.
Most crimes, however, are violations of state law, and most criminal trials are resolved at that level. It is only through the ambiguous phrase of the Fourteenth Amendment that “no State shall deny any person life, liberty or property without due process of law…” that the U. S. Constitution imposes any restriction on state criminal procedures. The Constitution creates factions among the three branches though the separation of powers. A faction running Congress may face a rival in control of the presidency and the executive branch. Controlling both might face a truculent judicial branch of holdovers from an earlier regime.
The separation of powers and checks and balances assure that no one group will be able to dominate the national government. Conflicts or possible corroboration for dominance comes with the encroachment by one branch to another or with duplication of functions. The Constitution established a structure that the mutual relation by all the branches would keep them in their proper places. (Madison, The Federalist 51, Cigler, 1998 ). The creation of three different branches chosen in different ways at different times ensures that policy will be made through bargaining and compromise.
Regardless of the separation embodied in the Constitution, the different branches will actually share powers. The checks and balances set up very little dependence between the branches. The permanent tenure of appointments in the Judiciary reinforces its independence from the other branches. The Constitution provides the deviation in the principle of equality to fortify the judiciary. It also admitted the weaker one posing threats or committing encroachments to other branches among the three. The lifetime term of magistrates destroys any possible dependence to the conferring authority.
(Madison, The Federalist 51, Cigler 1998). The division into different departments of the legislature chosen in different ways and with different principles of action ensures a level playing field with the executive. Conflicts were expected to occur from time to time between the legislative and the executive. The division in the legislature is to balance the weight of its authority and fortify the executive’s (Madison, The Federalist 51, Cigler 1998). The separation of powers impedes the influence of those who have less by ensuring that if this group gains access to one branch, that branch will be checked by another branch.
The Constitution provides that “influence to government should be proportionate to property (Hofstadter, The Founding Fathers: an Age of Realism, Cigler 1998). ” If small landowners succeed in getting support from one branch, the other branch could demand for other checks and balances, a sufficient evidence of property ownership. Election policy The Constitution’s election policy ensures that the working class and others who have less, uniting as a majority, could not gain influence in the government.
The Philadelphia Enterprise had no intention of extending liberties to those without properties (Hofstadter, The Founding Fathers: an Age of Realism, Cigler 1998). Only white males “with property and principle” were allowed to vote. The Constitution staggers elections to bring into the national government new issues as they arise over time. The necessary actions that often include bargaining and compromise have been addressed prior to elective officials seeking of new mandate. The staggering of elections makes it impossible for the masses to quickly and easily influence the government.
The right to vote was not provided by the Constitution. The Convention was not interested to extend liberty to the ‘men without property in principle’ back home. The people they meant were in “consent of the people” (Hofstadter, The Founding Fathers: an Age of Realism, Cigler 1998) as the foundation of the government were actually the small landowners – men with small properties who were categorized as stakeholders proportionate to their assets. The hard truth is, not just suffrage but all other rights were not mentioned and defined in the Constitution.
According to statistics, only 54%, an alarmingly low number, of eligible voters cast their ballots in the last four decades of presidential election (Carleton, n. d. ). Apparent civilian apathy is happening especially among those from the low-income bracket and those belonging within the age bracket of 18-25 years old. Why don’t these people vote? The numbers of reasons cited are: “They feel ignored by politicians; they feel their vote doesn’t really count; and they say that they don’t get the kind of information they need to make an informed decision (Clinton, 2000).
I will state three reasons why the people of America should vote: it is our privilege; it is our right; and it is a hallmark of our culture of representative democracy. Voting is a privilege because it is not everybody’s birthright to participate in the selection of a country’s leaders. Suffrage is being mandated by the laws of the land and conferred among its people; it can be constrained to some areas or to some part of the population. In fact in our history, this right is used to be reserved to the wealthy, white males of society. Thus, let us not forget that Martin Luther King Jr.
marched from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, magnifying the voting issues, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There were also the women suffrage fighters who suffered persecution and loathe until the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution has been ratified. In come countries, like Afghanistan, electorates will walk for days before reaching their precinct, some would even line up for hours in order to cast their votes. More than two centuries ago, our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence setting us free from the British rule.
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the government. ” These are the words written and immortalized by the Thomas Jefferson, a former president and one of the founding fathers. The phrase “consent of the governed” marked the cornerstone of our democracy. When we vote, we acknowledgement the principles by which our sovereign state adheres to – we are demonstrating to the world that we live in a free nation and are proud of it. Women’s right movement In the aftermath of suffrage, white women’s racial attitudes ranged from intolerance to neglect to engagement.
At one extreme, the resurgent Ku Klux Klan established a Women’s KKK, which in 1924 claimed a membership of a quarter million. More typical was the dismissal of race by younger radicals such as Alice Paul, the charismatic leader of the self-identified feminists, who had helped revive the U. S. suffrage movement. Borrowing the militant tactics of the British suffragettes, they had chained themselves to the White House fence and survived hunger strikes in jail. This refusal to acknowledge racism recurred in the anti-Semitism of the women’s movement.
Like African Americans, Jewish women had formed their own clubs in response to exclusion from white Christian organizations. Although Jewish women supported suffrage more often than other groups, the suffrage movement had ignored their cultural life when it scheduled conventions and parades on the Jewish Sabbath. Voting is an obligation because it is a direct participation to determine the welfare of the nation. During Elections, every voter is a statesman, carrying a personal responsibility of choosing the best persons to run the country. “It is the most powerful tool that we have . . . vote does everything . . . It wins wars. It loses wars.
” say country artist Ronnie Dunn (Barbieri, n. d. ). The women’s right movement during the Progressive Era was concerned with women suffrage. In the 1800s women were becoming more educated, their roles were slowly shifting as society gradually adjusted to intellectual women who knew politics and other concerns previously under the male’s domain. This awakening period made most of these educated women question the norms, especially their lack of stand during elections. The movement at this time was focused on the right to vote, as the fighters believe that winning suffrage will just be the beginning of other women’s right in the society.
It was also a struggle to prove that women can be just as good as men. In the 1960s, however, women’s right movements cover a broader scope. It was also called the liberation movement. Liberation in a sense that women were deemed as caged by the rules set by society. Gaining suffrage is not enough when a woman’s full potential as an individual is not met. Before the 1960s, women could not pursue a career, nor venture into affairs that were considered unfashionable for a lady, such as politics and business.
Her main concern is the home, taking care of the family and always exuding that feminine grace and aura. The leaders of the movements rebelled against this painted picture of the woman, insisting that they have far greater substance to be considered as mere “beauty objects” and “sex objects” (Sawhney). At this time, the enlightened woman welcomed the arrival of the contraceptive pill, legalization of abortion and career life without the feeling of guilt. Male chauvinism was also deeply criticized. Affirmative Action There is perhaps a need to establish goals in affirmative action plans on that basis.
It would be good to note that our organization undertakes recruitment efforts to ensure that underutilized minorities and women are represented in the applicant pool. The proper equal employment opportunity is the core concept that harmonizes the diversity and Affirmative Action efforts. It is a fact that management acknowledges that everyone must have that equal access to employment opportunities. It has been our long standing goal to prohibit discrimination based on different characteristics. If there are Affirmative Action policies, then the company can have clear guidelines on how this would best be implemented.
We need to take concrete steps that are taken not only to eliminate employment discrimination but also to attempt to redress the effects of past discrimination. Indeed, the underlying motive for affirmative action is the principle of equal opportunity, which holds that all persons with equal abilities should have equal opportunities. Affirmative action programs differ widely to the extent to which they attempt to overturn discrimination (Encyclopedia of Small Business, p. 1). Some programs might simply institute reviews of the hiring process for women, minorities, and other affected groups.
Other affirmative action programs might explicitly prefer members of affected groups. In such programs, minimum job requirements are used to create a pool of qualified applicants from which members of affected groups are given preference. Affirmative action affects small businesses in two main ways. First, it prevents businesses with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, and physical capability in practices relating to hiring, compensating, promoting, training, and firing employees.
Second, it allows the state and federal governments to favor women-owned and minority-owned businesses when awarding contracts, and to reject bids from businesses that do not make good faith efforts to include minority-owned businesses among their subcontractors (para 2). The interpretation and implementation of affirmative action has been contested since its origins in the 1960s. A central issue of contention was the definition of discriminatory employment practices. The discriminatory employment practices as listed by the Department of Administration and Equal Opportunity (p.
1) include: gender identity, sexual orientation, race discrimination, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, religious discrimination, national origin discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation. As the interpretation of positive discrimination evolved, employment practices that were not intentionally discriminatory but that nevertheless had a “disparate impact” on affected groups were considered a violation of affirmative action regulations (Encyclopedia of Small Business, section 2).
Another central issue was whether members of affected groups could receive preferential treatment and, if so, the means by which they could be preferred. This issue is sometimes referred to as the debate over quotas. Nevertheless, even if people say that minorities now use Affirmative Action as a means to get promotions that they do not deserve, still, management can be more meticulous in taking all aspects into consideration. Everything being equal, people must not be rewarded because they fall into a certain class of people. That is not the original purpose of Affirmative Action.
Conclusion Currently, the United States is the most powerful nation on earth. It wields great influence in the international scene as no other country can and this emerges because of the country’s wealth as well as its strategic global alliances. The government projects an image of international sentinel against the “bad boys,” the terrorist and the extremists. It also assumes within its control the task of defending the underdog against the supposed bullies, which are the nations ruled by tyrants or those that coddles communists and terrorists.
One hundred years ago, the United States was just an emerging super power, while enjoying the growing wealth from its industrialist economy. As expected, there is a huge difference between the United States’ international standing in 1906 and today. As the US gains more wealth, it also earns more voice and authority in international affairs. References Affirmative Action. Encyclopedia of Small Business. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at: <http://www. answers. com/topic/affirmative-action Barbieri, B. Country Artists Stress the Importance of Voting. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at:
http://www. cmt. com/artists/news/1493277/10292004/dodd_deryl. jhtml Clinton, H. R. (2000). Talking it Over. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at: http://clinton4. nara. gov/WH/EOP/First_Lady/html/columns/2000/Tue_Nov_14_185710_2000. html. Dye, T. Tucker G. Jr. and Robison, C. Politics in America Fifth Edition. Pearson Prentice Hall. www. prenticehall. com Hofstadter, R. (1998) The Founding Fathers: An age of Realism, Cigler p. 9. American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Houghton Mifflin Company 1998. Madison, J. (1998). The Federalist No. 10, Cigler.
American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Houghton Mifflin Company. O’Connor, K. Sabato, L. (2005). American Government: Continuity and Change, Longman; 8 edition (March 4, 2005) Sawhney, V. The Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at: <http://www. cwluherstory. com/GrrlSmarts/sawhney. html> The United States, 1904-1914. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at: <http://cnparm. home. texas. net/ Nat/USA/USA01. html> The Offensiveness of Affirmative Action. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2009 at: http://www. mypalal. com/aboutalan/affirmativeActionOffensive. htm .

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