Political Science 1100, Introduction to American Politics, February 5, 2013


Current Events 


Civil Rights:

When Government Must Step in to Protect People 




The Constitution left many unanswered questions about civil rights


1) Unanswered Question #1

    Do slaveowners hold the balance of power in America?


    How did the U.S. answer the question?   Political Compromise (Missouri Compromise)


2). Unanswered Question #2

        Can slaveowners start their own nation?



          How did the U.S. answer?   Civil War



3). Unanswered Question #3

      Are African-Americans' civil rights protected by the states?



       How did the U.S. answer?  In the courts



          At first, by letting states decide (de jure segregation; "Jim Crow" laws)




            Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 upheld Jim Crow laws




  In the 1950s, Brown versus Board of Education (1954) rejects de jure segregation in schools


         The Civil Rights Movement, the 1964 Civil Rights Act & the 1965 Voting Rights Act




4). The legacy


    a). The Civil Rights agenda expands to de facto segregation: Housing, Schools, Jobs



    b). ... and to other groups: Gender, Other Minorities, the Disabled, and Gays





5). Current public opinion and the racial divide




Civil Liberties: What Problems Should Not Be Public?



1. The Constitution at its Most Ambiguous: Civil Liberties

        - An Example: Freedom of Religion



2. Two Positions on Civil Liberties

    a) The Absolutist Position (Hugo Black)



    b) The Balancing Position (Most Judges)



3. Free Speech Against National Security Threats

    The Smith Act (1940) - makes it a crime to join an organization advocating the violent overthrow of the government


    The Case of Dennis v. U.S. (1951)


    - The Supreme Court Majority Opinion upholds the Smith Act


    - Hugo Black's Minority Opinion


4. The Right to Privacy

    The case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) - Griswold arrested for making contraceptives available


        - The Supreme Court Majority Opinion rules there is a right to privacy


        - Hugo Black's Minority Opinion



5. Tolerance - a necessary protection for civil liberties.


    Political tolerance

  refers to our willingness to apply constitutional rights

        to all members of society, no matter who they are



    How tolerant are students in PS 1100?