The Equal Protection Clause
Why are the principles of both majority rule and minority rights important in a democracy?
For democracy to flourish, both the principles of majority rule and minority rule must be observed. Democracy means the side with the majority votes must be declared the winner in an election. In other words, the will of the people must be respected. Democracy cannot claim its position in society without respecting the rights of the minorities. Majority rule is not the only way in which power can be expressed.
If the majority were allowed to exercise their power without considering the wishes of the minorities, the majority would easily tyrannize the marginalized. Democracy aims at making life simple for each member of society. Therefore, democratic principles must ensure that the majority does not interfere with the existence of minorities (Krieger, 1995).
Advocates of democracy warned that the government had the responsibility of guarding the interests of the minorities in society because the dominant class could easily use its power to subjugate and oppress the minority class. The state has the responsibility of ensuring that the rights of the minorities are provided no matter how small they might be in the country. The Equal Protection Clause is a chapter in the American Constitution, which states that American states should not restrict an individual from exercising his or her rights within the state borders.
The clause is a result of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. During its inception, the clause was supposed to apply to state governments, but it is applied even in the federal government nowadays. Before the insertion of the clause in the constitution, people were simply protected by the Bill of Rights, which postulated that the federal government had to protect the interests of each America. The Fourteenth Amendment was a milestone in the American constitutionalism process because the law protected each person (Lawrence, 1987).
What individuals and groups (classifications) are covered by the amendment?
The minorities include women, the physically challenged, homosexuals, and minority races. Before the Fourteenth Amendment, women were not allowed to participate in the political process. For instance, no woman was expected to present her candidature during elections since it was against the cultural norms and standards. Moreover, women were perceived as people who were supposed to serve men in society.
They did not have any right to choose a leader because they were perceived, as weak and emotionally dependent on men. The clause was introduced to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on skin color and ethnicity. In the United States, slaves had no rights implying that they were supposed to respect their masters and follow orders without asking unnecessary questions. It was unfair because slaves were subjected to inhuman treatment. The clause instructed employers to consider merit and other qualifications other than skin color (Klarman, 1994).
In a democratic society, it is believed that minorities have certain inherent rights that cannot be separated from them. The minority must be provided with mechanisms to help them compete equally in society. Therefore, they should be allowed to exercise their freedom of speech, assembly, and association. If the majority were allowed to go on unchecked, it would turn into a dictator, which will contradict the ideals of democracy. The majority must allow minorities to exercise their fundamental freedoms because they will also need the same rights when they will be in opposition.
What types of powers are given to the national government by the Constitution?
The US constitution grants several powers to the federal government. However, these powers can be summarized into three major powers. One of the powers is the legislative power. The government, through the legislature, has the responsibility of ensuring that laws are made in time.
Due to the changing environment, the legislature is given the authority to make changes whenever the need arises. Some laws are made, others are adjusted, and others are done away with altogether. Moreover, the legislature acts as the people’s watchdog meaning, that it cannot allow the executive arm to exercise powers that are not granted to it by the Constitution.
The executive is the policy implementation arm, whose main role is to execute laws made by the legislature. The head of the executive is the president, who appoints senior government officials after consulting the legislature. The executive has played a significant role when it comes to matters related to national and international security. It is concerned with foreign policy formulation.
The last arm of government is the judiciary, whose major role in arbitration. The Supreme Court is the highest arbitration organ in the US. The court has the power to challenge the decision of any individual, including the president. However, the court only interprets the laws provided in the Constitution. It cannot come up with decisions that are contrary to the provisions of the law.
It should be noted that the three arms of government work in partnership to better the lives of Americans. The Constitution states that the three arms will always exist to check the powers of each other. No organ can misuse its power because of the system of checks and balances. For instance, the decision of the president must be discussed in detail by the legislature. The conduct of the judges is also monitored by the legislature meaning that the parliament has the power to remove any judge from office through a substantive motion.
Klarman, J. (1994). Brown, Racial Change and the Civil Rights Movement. Virginia Law Review, 80(1), 43-61.
Krieger, L. (1995). The Content of Our Categories: A Cognitive Bias Approach to Discrimination and Equal Protection Opportunity. Stanford Law Review, 47(6), 1161.
Lawrence, C. (1987). Reckoning with Unconscious Racism. Stanford Law Review, 39(2), 317-327.