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Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights: Controversial Points

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In the Supreme Court case, Barron v. Baltimore (1833), the notion of “dual citizenship” became what ultimately shaped civil liberties and civil rights protections for early citizens as the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s Bill of Rights restricted only the powers of the federal government and not those of the state. In other words, John Barron might have been protected by the fifth amendment on a federal level. However, the U.S. government’s Bill of Rights did not fully extend to that of the states. He ultimately had to live under the laws of Maryland which discussed the eminent domain and the action of taking property without just compensation. In short, these implied powers served to encourage unjust action under the state’s individual Constitution, further dismantling the promise of the protection of civil liberties/civil rights to American citizens.

In answering the second question, we need to discuss the effect of the Civil War. This fight between northern and southern states became the leading gateway towards establishing the nationalization of the civil liberties and the civil rights. The fourteenth amendment, in particular, granted the right of national citizenship and also extended the Bill of Rights to citizens regardless of their state of residency. Meaning, all states were restricted from enforcing any law that “deprived any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process [. . .]”. This addition to the Constitution was intended to grant more protection under the law of the state which was not previously granted before.

When we begin discussing the benefits of incorporating civil liberties protections to extend the citizens of the United States, we tend to emphasize the notion of equal protection. More specifically, it indicates the limitation of power imposed by the state government to withhold the protection of additional civil liberties to citizens. This amendment to the Constitution has in fact paved the way in which we live today in modern time. Court cases such as Roe v. Wade (right to privacy), Miranda v. Arizona (right to counsel and remain silent), and Gideon v. Wainright (right to counsel in the criminal trial) have collectively served as precedents for other individuals fighting the same struggle. However, this extension of civil rights and liberties protections have ultimately developed a trend of public outrage. The Supreme Court has gradually adopted a more conservative view on public issues pertaining to social justice and has begun to rule in favor of states regarding violence against women, federal gun law, religion, and abortion. In turn, it becomes extremely terrifying for some to identify the evolution which has established the dominance of the national government. Minority protections are now considered under the national government instead of their residing state. Jim Crow laws were pieces of legislature that were derived from white supremacist ideals and the Reconstruction era. These laws restricted any black individual to consort with members of another race. Although immoral and unjust, these discriminatory laws were created in order to disenfranchise black citizens and segregate them from the whites. These laws were largely remedied by the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This particular organization served to overturn the enactment of Jim Crow laws during the Civil Rights Movement. The event of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) became a pivotal case for the desegregation of schools and ultimately became a precedent case for Plessy v. Ferguson as it stated that “separate but equal” education was not logically possible or morally correct. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) also emphasized that the act of de jure segregation, segregation mandated by law, violated the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. These cases, in particular, paved a gateway towards eliminating segregation and incorporating public schools.

In addition, Congress also established an effort to remedy the enactment of Jim Crow laws by acknowledging the several campaigns regarding civil rights. In 1957, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, a law imposing federal punishment if one chooses to prevent an individual from voting. They, again, passed a second piece of legislature in 1960 which increased sanctions for denying one’s right to vote. Although Congress intended to correct the governmental framework of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, it ultimately created a form of segregation that trapped several African Americans in poor neighborhoods. De facto segregation continues to persist in spite of de jure segregation dying. This is largely due to the event of “white flight” and the socioeconomic sorting that resulted from the legacy of the civil right policy.

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Given the Supreme Court ruling of Barron v. Baltimore (1833), the federal government at that time did not have the ability to interfere with state issues. Therefore, when we begin discussing the notion of civil rights and federalism, we generally analyze the resulted tension that restricts one from seeking political union. Because amending the Constitution requires adherence from both levels of government, it becomes extremely difficult for individuals to initiate a political reform. Several states during the Civil Rights Movement, for instance, did not hold the harmonious view of extending the rights of minority groups. Therefore, the ability of obtaining equal protection under the law of the federal and state government became almost impossible.

However, despite the delay, these rights became extended under the jurisdiction of Congress, Supreme Court cases, and the event of social movements. After the event of the Civil War, several amendments were made to the Constitution in order to reform the laws regarding the discrimination placed on Black individuals. The ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were specifically designed to protect the victims of discrimination but more specifically the newly freed blacks. Although the Supreme Court was slow to acknowledge the need for political reform, it became evident that the Court was in favor of combating racial discrimination. In the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), it addressed the unconstitutional framework of segregation and more specifically acknowledged that separate facilities were inherently unequal. Rights were also expanded within the decision to enact a federal Civil Rights Act and a Voting Right. This, in short, granted American citizens the right to vote, the access to housing, and established equal opportunity within a work environment. Organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, began to push for a more confrontational approach when campaigning for political reform. Direct action and civil disobedience became extremely effective and gained momentum for the expansion of civil rights.

According to the reading, political parties were created in order to develop and implement policies. More specifically, they directly guide the members of Congress during the process of drafting pieces of legislature. In terms of a representative democracy, political parties partake the role of identifying and aligning sets of issues that are important to voters. By doing this, their position on critical issues begins to influence public policy through its members. The roles that the political parties carry within elections and the implementation of public policy, become extremely beneficial when discussing the voting process. Considering the role to clarify certain aspects of politics, voters are able to make a more efficient decision based on the guidance given by their respected political party. In addition, the role of political parties tends to make the process of running for office less difficult. Voters help political affiliated candidates by providing an existing base of support for their individual party. Notably, this foundation created for candidates furthers the efficiency of the electoral process. However, the roles of political parties also creates issues regarding the freedom of voters. The circumstance of only having two politically dominated parties limits the choices for individuals during an election. This, in short, leaves voters to choose a party that somewhat represents their political ideology or, in simpler terms, appeals to them the most. Additionally, the role of parties begins to politically divide the people. Each party will continue to seek political advantage and establish dominance within public policy/elections. This, in effect, will prevent the action of compromise between both political parties and encourage the event of conflict, making it extremely difficult to progress.

When we discuss the reasoning behind the practice of a two-party system and the failure within an additional party to an electoral system, we need to consider the significance of Duverger’s Law. This theory of law addresses two questions: “How many votes does one need to win a seat?” and “Are people encouraged to vote honestly?”. As we begin to discuss the method of plurality voting, we will then begin to understand the answers to both questions. Given that plurality voting creates an electoral system in which each eligible voter is restricted to only one candidate vote, it begins to emphasize the importance of existing support within a single-winner district. This begins to demonstrate the difficulty within a third-party candidate as it requires one to have majority support or government representation. In addition, the notion of voter psychology also begins to determine the success of third parties. With a lack of minority representation, voters are never inclined to pick smaller parties even if a particular individual is their favorite candidate. This is largely due to the rationality of voters who do not want to “waste” their vote or even worse, throw the election to a candidate they very much dislike. Considering these two factors are not likely within a third-party candidate, it ultimately addresses the failure of becoming electorally successful.

However, it also demonstrates why the U.S. has implemented a two-party political system as it becomes efficient for Congress and presidential candidates. This form of voting establishes a method of “winner takes all,” making the electoral process easier for some as it only requires a plurality of the vote to be elected.

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Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights: Controversial Points. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/constitution-of-the-united-states-and-the-bill-of-rights-controversial-points/
“Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights: Controversial Points.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/constitution-of-the-united-states-and-the-bill-of-rights-controversial-points/
Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights: Controversial Points. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/constitution-of-the-united-states-and-the-bill-of-rights-controversial-points/> [Accessed 26 Nov. 2022].
Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights: Controversial Points [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Nov 26]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/constitution-of-the-united-states-and-the-bill-of-rights-controversial-points/
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