Civil rights mean that the government must treat all citizens equally, apply laws fairly and not discriminate against certain groups of people.
Civil rights are guaranteed by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments.
The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights of citizenship laid out in the amendments.
The right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of race or gender, and government cannot make laws that treat people differently on the basis of race.
Some people don't live under governments that guarantee their fundamental liberties.
We argued in Chapter 1 that nonauthoritarian governments give citizens the power to challenge government if they believe it has denied them their basic rights.
There are at least two ways in which democracies depend on the existence of rights.
Civil liberties give rules that keep government limited so that it can't become too powerful.
Civil rights help define who the people are in a democracy and give them the power to control their governments.
The issues of civil liberties and civil rights are explored in two chapters.
In this chapter we begin with a discussion of the meaning of rights in a democracy, and then focus on the traditional civil liberties that provide a check on the power of government.
Civil rights and the continuing struggle of some groups of Americans--like women, African Americans, and other minorities--to be fully counted and empowered in American politics are the focus of Chapter 6.
The everyday language of politics in America includes the freedoms we consider indispensable to the working of a democracy.
We take a lot of them for granted, such as our freedom of speech, the press, religion, and our rights to bear arms.
These freedoms are not inevitable.
The idea of rights is not inevitable.
The writing of Enlightenment figures such as John Locke made it rare for individuals to talk about their rights against the government.
The prevailing narrative was that governments had all the power, giving their subjects only the privileges they were willing to give.
Locke argued that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property were granted by nature and that one of the primary purposes of government was to preserve the natural rights of its citizens.
The American system was founded on the idea of natural rights and limited government.
Any government can make its citizens do anything it wants, as long as it is in charge of the military and the police.
In nonauthoritarian governments like the United States, public opinion is usually against the invasion of individual rights.
Unless the government is willing to give up its reputation as a democracy, it must respond in some way.
In a democracy, public opinion and the narrative of natural rights can be a powerful guardian of citizens' liberties.
As with rights, they also empower its citizens.
Power over a government that wants to collect data on its citizens for security purposes, power over a school board that wants children to say a Christian prayer regardless of their religious affiliation, and power over a state legal system that wants to discriminate on the basis of religion are all examples of power over a
A person who can successfully claim that he or she has rights that must be respected by government is a citizen of that government; a person who is under the authority of a government but cannot claim rights is merely a subject, bound by the laws but without any power to challenge or change them.
This doesn't mean that a citizen can always have his or her own way.
It doesn't mean that noncitizens don't have rights in a democracy.
citizens have special protections and powers that allow them to stand up to government and plead their cases when they believe an injustice is being done
Rights are subject to conflict and controversy because they represent power.
Someone else must lose out for one person to get his or her own way.
There are two major rights conflicts in a democracy.
Power to claim a right is one of the few resources people have to win in politics.
There is a first type of rights conflict.
One person's right to share a prayer with classmates at the start of the school day conflicts with another student's right not to be subjected to a religious practice against his or her will.
Our right as citizens to know about our elected officials might conflict with our candidate's right to privacy.
The rights of individuals are at odds with the needs of society and the demands of collective living.
It might seem like the decision to wear a helmet or seat belt should be up to the individual.
Society has an interest in regulating these behaviors because they are costly to society in terms of the loss of talent or social contributions the individual might have made, the wasted public investment in education and training, and the cost of medical care.
One of the most important aspects of claiming and defending a right is building a narrative that you deserve to have it.
Gun ownership is a sacred right protected by the Constitution, while a woman has a right to make her own health decisions without government interference, and the government must protect the lives of unborn children.
Winning disputes over rights is dependent on telling a compelling story and using all the available media to reinforce it.
The case of national security is an example of how individual rights can conflict with the needs of society.
Americans were afraid after the 9/11 attacks.
The government federalized airport security and began screening passengers, searching luggage, and allowing armed agents on airplanes to prevent a repeat of the horrible attacks.
The background of tourists and students from the Middle East was scrutinized and officials kept a close eye on Arab Americans they suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations.
In October 2001, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act, which made it easier for law enforcement to intercept email and conduct wiretaps, gave it access to library records and allowed immigrants suspected of terrorist activity to be held.
The Bush administration worried that the evidence required in a U.S. court of law might not be forthcoming to convict a suspected terrorist and issued an executive order that non-U.S. citizens arrested on grounds of terrorism could be subject to trial in a military tribunal, where usual rules of The National Security Agency began to collect enormous amounts of data from the phone and electronic communications of both foreign and domestic individuals.