Part 1: Political Report
Civil liberties constitute one of the foundational pillars of any democracy. In the American context, they are not just revered as a tenet of democracy but also sentimental ideological elements (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus, 2016). Their divisive and emotive nature can be traced as far as the days of the founders where there emerged a group of federalists who sought the ratification of the constitution and the anti-federalists who sought a stay on the ratification until the bill of rights was incorporated (House, 2016). When the latter had their way, a series of amendments were made to the constitution incorporating the Bill of Rights. This paper examines a civil rights case scenario from the last general election.
One of the most controversial events of last year’s general election pitting Trump against Clinton went down in Wilmington, North Carolina. Addressing thousands of GOP supporters, the would-be head of state indicated that the people would be powerless against Clinton if she won the November poll, as she would control the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court. This was in relation to the second amendment that gives Americans the right to bear arms. While this was in itself a controversial statement that appeared to prejudice public opinion against his opponent’s choices into the Supreme Court were her to win, the now President of the United States did not stop there. He went ahead to suggest that “the second amendment people” may perhaps be the ones to stop her. The statement immediately led to a social and mainstream media uproar with analysts and observers treating his sentiments as a call to gun violence. While a good number of democrats were on the onslaught, many GOP supporters stood by Trump viewing his statements as a defense of their civil rights. Indeed, there was lots of cheering even in the Trump rally and booing at Clinton’s stand at characterized by Trump showing just how polarizing the issue at hand was.
The event was directly related to civil rights as it tackled the perennial debate on gun rights. While problems of gun violence have increased in the past, any attempts to introduce gun reform have been met with hostility, with many Americans more so conservatives viewing it as an attack on their right to bear arms as given in the second amendment (Murray & Wunsch, 2016). Therefore, in both the mention of the Supreme Court judges and the possible clash between Clinton and the “second amendment people”, Trump was directly referring to civil rights guaranteed in the US constitution and how they were under threat from a Clinton Presidency.
Looking at the entire event, there are several critical questions that came to my mind. First is the old question on balancing rights and responsibilities. This was a serious debate that the people needed to have with respect to the second amendment. While exercising the right to bear arms, there were many cases in which mentally unsound persons had ended up killing innocent people (House, 2016). Juvenile delinquents and individuals seeking vengeance had also taken advantage of the second amendment. I wondered what responsibilities were attached to, and enforceable in line with the law. Looking at the reaction of the crowd, it was also disturbing as to whether Americans were really awake to the terror of gun violence.
In conclusion, it is apparent that civil liberties can be quite an emotive discourse that politicians can explore for their own expediency. Trump’s speech on gun rights in Wilmington is perfect proof of the same. The event raises questions on how civil liberties can be balanced with responsibilities and whether the citizenry understands the threats posed by gun violence.
Part 2: Clash of Civilizations
There have been many theses by intellectuals on the source of latter day conflicts more so on the economic and political sphere of academia. Many wars waged today are seen as the aftermath of clashing political ideologies or economic doctrines. Indeed, Von Mises (2008) argued that the wars of the current age were an inescapable product of the application of popular economic doctrines. In application, it has been extrapolated that for instance, a philosophy of protectionism sparks wars and may be at play in most of the conflicts witnessed today. However, Huntington (1993) disapproved such suggestions arguing that many contemporary and future wars shall be down to a clash of civilizations. This section outlines this thesis and compares it to a rejoinder by Fox (2002).
Huntington (1993) argued that culture shall be the fundamental source of conflicts in the post cold war era. With the previous world consisting of the United States, Russia and the third world power epochs disappearing, a new class of powers takes over based on culture. These cultures unite to form civilizations which shall then be the basis of latter day wars. Civilizations are defined by history, language, language and religion (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus, 2016). This thesis has been widely appraised, with both negative and positive returns.
One of the most plausible critics of Huntington (1993) is Fox (2002). The author quantitatively looks at the thesis “the clash of civilizations”, arguing that it was based on anecdotal evidence and needed to be examined empirically for support or rebuttal. The main research problem is whether there has been a quantitative increase between clashes of civilizations among ethnic minorities. The author demonstrates that Huntington’s (1993) thesis was difficult to operationalize and the class of civilization’s proposed only affected minorities. Overall, the conflicts in the world today were barely accounted for by civilizations, with the latter only a small fraction of them. Thus, from a quantitative viewpoint, the “Clash of Civilizations” was not only largely unscientific but also unproven.
In the context of America’s war on terror, Huntington’s thesis appears to hold just as much as the rebuttal by Fox (2002). Since September 11 which is pretty much in the post-cold war era, the war on terror has been conspicuous globally. On the face of it, both militants and the US have demonstrated the war to be a battle between two civilizations, the West and Islam. As much as this is denied, Burka bans, increased screening of Muslims in airports and the targeting of western establishments abroad have proved Huntington’s thesis. However, these wars are still a minority compared to civil wars in Syria, political uprisings like the Arab spring among others. Thus, both Huntington’s thesis and Fox’s rebuttal stand.
In the end, it is apparent that though Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis holds water to some extent, it does not explain all the wars of our age. It can be directly related to the war on terror by the United States, with numerous actions demonstrating it as a war between Islam and the West. However, Fox’s rebuttal also holds in that clashes of civilizations only account to a minority of modern wars, the war on terror included.
Part 3: Personal Political Philosophy
In the present day America, citizens openly identify with different political ideologies. They consequently defend their ideologies staunchly to the extent that elections are highly contested in the same lines. The main ideological groupings are conservatives (those who support the GOP) and the liberals (democrats) (Jones, 2015). The rivalry between these factions is always repeated in every general election with the President either a democrat or a republican. This section discusses my political ideology in terms of its origin, prospects for the future and impact on political parties and elections.
There is a strange idea about the political ideology that I fall under, independents. These are persons who are unaffiliated to either republican or democrat ideals, and approach issues objectively without the partisanship associated with the two sides. It is unbelievable that independents are a majority in the US, outnumbering democrats or republicans (Jones, 2015). With their numbers standing at 43%, it is quite inconceivable for a statistic, given that US presidents, members of congress and other elective positions have been predominantly republican or democrat. Candidates that appear neutral have on the other hand always performed poorly. Though the ideology has existed for decades, it reached its peak in the 90s following the dissatisfaction with Reaganism and Clintonism that seemed to have entrenched the democrats and republicans as the domineering ideological groups (Jones, 2015). Its rise to over 40% is the highest in over 70 years with future trends suggesting even more increments.
There is no doubt that the number of independents is likely to rise in the future. Many voters are increasingly becoming disillusioned with the Republican and Democratic Party ideals with both sides failing to offer effective leadership (Hershey, 2017). The best demonstration of this scenario is the 2016 Presidential race where both Clinton and Trump were considerably unpopular in comparison with their predecessors. Additionally, many individuals are increasingly uncomfortable with being labelled as either republican or democrat and thus the number of Independents is sure to rise.
Independents are likely to change the political landscape in America in the coming days. First, the democratic and republican parties may lose popularity and end up not retaining their dominance in congress and the white house. This will be a game changer that will transform American politics for the first time in many years. With the decline of the two dominant forces, a new political party may rise and gain the favour of the majority (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus, 2016). More importantly, there may be more powerful independents running for the presidency and other elective seats going forward.
In conclusion, political partisanship is rife in the United States with most voters either republican or democrat. However, there is a rising tide of independents who are not only currently the majority but hold the power to transform the political landscape forever. As one of them, I can’t wait to see a president who does not align themselves to any of the dominant sides and a congress of the same shape. While this shall be an unprecedented occurrence, it is clear that it shall be yet another move towards a flourishing democracy beyond the belief of the founders.
Fox, J. (2002). Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A quantitative analysis of Huntington’s thesis. British journal of political science, 32(3), 415-434.
Hershey, M. R. (2017). Party politics in America. Taylor & Francis.
House, F. (2016). Freedom in the World 2016: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Rowman & Littlefield.
Huntington, S. P. (1993). The Clash of Civilizations?. Foreign Affairs, 72(3), 22.
Jones, J. M. (2015). In US, new record 43% are political Independents. Gallup Inc.
Murray, N., & Wunsch, S. (2016). Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis: Lessons from History. Massachusetts Law Review, 2015, 2014.
O’Connor, K., Sabato, L. J., & Yanus, A. B. (2016). American Government: Roots and Updates Edition. Pearson Von Mises, L. (2008). Human action. Scholar’s Edition (Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1998), 866.
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