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Democracy, Equality, and the Supreme Court - Essay Example

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American's are often tempted to proclaim themselves the torchbearers for Democracy around the world. Yet, we are a combination of systems that function together to promote the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. We see ourselves as the model system for equality and fairness, yet we constantly struggle as we challenge our constitutional system to define new rights, new freedoms, and demands made by our ever-changing demographics…
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Democracy, Equality, and the Supreme Court
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Download file to see previous pages Our regular elections work to keep the government in check as special interests, elected officials, political groups, and lobbyists jockey for the inside track at making laws and enacting policy. As these differing political and social forces meet, our civil society demands that their disagreements be settled peacefully and that the participants will honor the settlement. The real power of America's Democracy does not lie in the people, elected officials, special interests, or lobby groups. Our rule lies in our body of law and the constitution. Over the centuries, laws, rights, and freedoms have been challenged and debated. The US Supreme Court, the highest arbitrator in the land, has been the seat of responsibility for progress and the expression of these freedoms. Our individual and collective rights are protected and directed by the decisions made by the Court. We can measure and view our nation's progress by looking at the history of our Democracy through the court's decisions.
The case of Marbury vs. Madison set the precedent that the Supreme Court would be the ultimate and final voice in constitutional questions and could void any law seen as contrary to the constitution. The court was further granted the power to determine the legality of the actions of the various branches of government and laid the foundation for the court's power, as well as our belief in a system guided by law and not men. Though the case was initiated over rather insignificant quarrels among the Republicans and Federalists, its effect has been paramount and enduring.
Marbury vs, Madison has been the basis for bringing other landmark cases before the Supreme Court. The court had laid the groundwork as an arena to fight for individual rights as granted by the constitution. The case of Derd Scott vs. Sandford is an interesting case in that it was hoped that the court's decision would diminish further debate on the slavery issue. However, the court's finding that states could not outlaw slavery further divided the nation and led to the Civil War. Through great political pressure and deep differences, the court ruled that the constitution did not provide protection from slavery. This was not the failing of an unsympathetic court, it was a shortcoming in the constitution. But our founders had made provisions for the constitution to be fixed as the future would dictate. The decision ultimately led to the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments which constitutionally guaranteed citizenship and equal rights for African-Americans and former slaves.
Other decisions by the court have been viewed by history as contrary to freedom and liberty. In some of these cases, the court has overturned a previous ruling as changing times have dictated. Two such cases were Plessey vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education. Plessey vs. Ferguson argued for definition of equality as guaranteed by the 14th amendment. The case was brought when Plessey, a Louisiana black, was arrested for violating the Separate Car Act. He had challenged the law that legalized segregation in public transportation and elsewhere. The court upheld Louisiana's segregationist laws under a finding that came to be known as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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