Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion, read chapters 8, 9, and 10 in American Government and review Week Four Instructor Guidance

Reflect: Our political system is characterized by certain fundamental features to include a system of laws, rights, and liberties. The laws, created and supported by the Constitutional framework, are designed to protect and secure the rights and liberties of individuals and groups throughout the U.S. However, the government also has an obligation to provide for the security of its citizens from serious internal and external threats that could cause grave or severe damage to our country. Think about how the need for homeland and national security can create a dilemma where conflicts emerge between these security needs and the demands for civil rights and liberties.

Write: In your initial post, explain what obligations the U.S. government has towards its citizens and how can these obligations impact individual and group rights? Provide real-world examples to support your explanation. Fully respond to all parts of the prompt and write your response in your own words.

Fully respond to all parts of the prompt and write your response in your own words. Your initial must be at least 300 words. Support your position with at least two of the assigned resources required for this discussion, and/or peer reviewed scholarly sources obtained through the AU Library databases. Include APA in-text citations in the body of your post and full references on the references list at the end. Support your position with information from two or more of the assigned resources required for this discussion. Please be sure that you demonstrate understanding of these resources, integrate them into your argument, and cite them properly.

Instructor Guidance


“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower (Political Parties Quotes, 2015)

Week Four Instructor Guidance

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
This week we will focus on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties are actually two different things. Civil rights are protections BY government power. This requires the government to act in your interest. For example, when the government stepped in to force schools to desegregate (the idea that separate is not equal) – they were acting on behalf of African Americans and protecting their civil rights. Civil liberties are protections FROM government power. These require the government to do nothing. For example, our first amendment protects our right to free speech. This means the government cannot imprison you (or otherwise punish you) for what you say. It does not apply to anyone else – so, if you work at a restaurant and scream at your customers, you can be fired. Free speech does not mean anything there. But, if you are saying negative things about an elected official your right to do that is protected.

Additionally, as you read through Chapter 8, think about what you learned in Chapter 7, and how the Court has stepped in to protect both the rights and liberties of people in the United States.

Political Parties
It is important to note that there are no mentions of political parties in the Constitution. In fact, the framers actively sought to avoid political parties. However, parties emerged almost immediately – even while the framers were still involved in the government. Think about why parties emerged and what purpose they serve.  Are these factors still true today?

Another important concept this week has to do with why the U.S. only has two main parties. The answer can be found in the idea of Duverger’s law (section 9.3 of your text). Duverger’s law is the idea that a plurality system tends to favor two parties. Here is an interesting video that uses animals to explain how we end up with only two parties.

(Grey, 2011)

Interest Groups
What is the role of interest groups in our political system? How do interest groups differ from political parties? What is the role of interest groups in American elections? What is the role of interest groups in American politics? How do interest groups impact policy formation? Take a look at the tables in Section 9.5 and ask yourself how this amount of money impacts democracy. Is American democracy something that is for sale?

Chapter 10 takes the information from Chapter 9 and applies it to the study of elections. What is the purpose of an election? What makes people turn out to vote? How do we increase voter participation (if this is something we even want to do)? In particular, you will want to pay attention the role of public opinion and the media in elections (sections 10.4 and 10.5). With the media, your text discusses the role of framing and priming in the news. Can you think of any examples where the media has framed or primed a particular story?

For example, if you are watching a news story about the war in Iraq and the news story starts with a picture of President Bush standing in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner, it is framing the story in a particular way. An example of priming the issue would be a story about war casualties in Iraq, and then coverage of the war. Here you would be primed to evaluate the situation in light of the dangers of war.

It’s a Free Country: Constitution USA with Peter Sagal


Discussion #1 – Individual Rights and Obligations of Government

1st Post Due by Day 3 – Thursday

In Discussion #1 you will analyze the U.S. government’s obligations to its citizens, focusing on the balance between civil liberties and national security. Neither civil liberties nor national security are ever absolute, and an optimal balance maximizes each while minimizing the costs to the other. Context matters here, meaning that the balance takes on different arrangements depending on the circumstances. This theoretical tension between liberty and security has been examined by government thinkers and practitioners for centuries.

In this discussion you will focus on real-world examples in order to illustrate your views regarding how the U.S. government balances security obligations with individual and group rights. There are many different topics you could use for your response, and I’ve composed a short list of sample topics below.Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and you might choose to explore topics other than those described below. Also, this list focuses on contemporary U.S. issues, but you may also analyze historical circumstances that demonstrate tension between liberty and security.

  1. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush administration developed a plan for holding and interrogating prisoners captured during the conflict. They were sent to a prison inside a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay on land leased from the government of Cuba. Hundreds of prisoners have been held at GITMO since 2001, and most have been released without charges or turned over to other governments. However, without access to a legal system, these prisoners have been denied the right of habeas corpus. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Under this provision, persons detained by the government are entitled to a judicial hearing to determine if there is any legal basis for their detention. However, this right has been denied from the Guantanamo detainees, including those who are U.S. citizens.
  2. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” In 2002 the National Security Agency began conducting warrantless collection of perhaps countless U.S. citizens’ and legal residents’ email messages and telephone calls. This NSA program demonstrates tension between potential terrorist threats and constitutional rights to privacy. If you’re especially interested in this topic, here is a link to an excellent two-part PBS Frontline piece that investigates the NSA’s warrantless spying program.
  3. Thousands of Americans are murdered each year by firearms, and far more are injured. However, legal and responsible gun use is an ingrained feature of U.S. culture. The Second Amendment to the Constitution states that “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. Thus there is conflict between security threats associated with widespread access to guns and a constitutional right to keep and bear these arms.
  4. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that marriage is a basic right, and that under the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, same-sex couples could not be denied this right. On the other hand, some opponents of same-sex marriage believe that it threatens traditional notions of marriage, family, and raising children. According to this perspective, same-sex marriage fundamentally challenges the idea of domestic life itself in the U.S. Although this issue might not appear to be a conventional example of balancing liberty and security, it highlights how same-sex marriage is viewed as both an important group right and a domestic threat.

Again, these are only suggested topics intended to offer guidance. After studying the assigned materials, take time to think about this assignment and respond thoughtfully.

Your initial post should at least 300 words, and written in paragraph form in your own words. Support your position with at least two of the assigned resources required for this discussion, and/or peer reviewed scholarly sources obtained through the AU Library databases. Include APA in-text citations in the body of your post and references at the end, to support or provide evidence to back up your arguments as you demonstrate understanding of these resources, integrate them into your position, and cite them properly.

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