Politics are at the foundation of the American society and it is often difficult to distinguish between the catalysts for change when considering the influence of the society, media, and political parties. In other words, while the government may have the power to enact legislation, each legislative action is influenced by a magnitude of events and ethical considerations based on the social conditions of the era. While there are many well known events that have shaped the history of the political dynamics in the United States, there are also ongoing events that continue to improve the social climate and acceptance in the American culture. Therefore, this paper presents both historical and current events relating to civil rights and the media that have shaped the American political terrain. This will lead to a discussion of the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties that influence the way that these events are integrated into the resulting legislation.
As mentioned, the most notorious civil rights events in the United States are historical in nature and relate to the plight of the African Americans towards equal rights for education despite having previously not been given a citizenship status. In much the same way, immigrants are currently fighting for this right as have individuals with special needs in previous years. According to Hahn, Truman, and Williams (2018) the right to education is one of the fundamental rights in the nation as it allows for economic growth, employment opportunities, and added value to the society. Yell, Yell, and Rogers (1998) explain that the Brown v. Board of Education provided the foundation for special education but did not specifically include the minority group. It took the rallying of parents and advocates to initiate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that offset the discrimination of those with disabilities. Yet, the plight continued through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 and the subsequent amendments in 1997.
As these changes continue to be implemented, another minority group, immigrants, are currently fighting for their right to education. According to the IRDA (2017) the lack of citizenship continues to be a barrier to this right. However, the movement has recently achieved a significant success marker as “in Plyler vs. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that children of undocumented workers and children who themselves are undocumented have the same right to attend public primary and secondary schools as do U.S. citizens and permanent residents” (IRDA, 2017). This clearly shows that the nation recognizes the importance of this fundamental right and that advocating for rights can alter the legislation.
Deciding which social causes to support and which political decisions to fight against can be determined by the information available to the public. One of the most readily available sources of information is media sources such as television, newspapers, and the internet. These portrayals of the movements and agendas can determine the outcomes of the various groups. For instance, Terkildsen and Schnell (1997) explain the women’s movement towards acceptance and equality in the workplace as well as the political domain. According to the researchers, women were displayed in sexist images during the earlier models of the media as a means of showing their limitations in the general society. However, as women began to take their place in higher positions, Terkildsen and Schnell (1997) state that the media recognized the framing of women in this light was hindering their advancement. Specifically, the researchers note that potential employers recognized the images and were unable to identify the women as more than presented in the media. While the movement continues, Terkildsen and Schnell (1997) claim that the media has the ability to present women in a way that will make them more marketable in all industries.
In more current news, the media has a responsibility to both the public and the law enforcement that is sworn to serve the public. According to Bejan, Hickman, Parkin, and Pozo (2018) the media is not taking this responsibility to heart which often puts the lives of the officers in grave danger. Specifically, the researchers state that the media provides dramatic coverage of the mistakes made by some law enforcement officers which places the other officers at risk for retaliation. For instance, the researchers explain that the media attention given to the Black Lives Matter movement resulted in the shooting of five officers in Dallas in 2016. In return, the same year resulted in more shootings by officers than the previous year (Bejan, Hickman, Parkin, & Pozo, 2018). While the public has a right to know about these events, the media often uses the fear of the public to gain ratings rather than considering the consequences to the public and the public servants.
In modern America, the general notion is that the Republican party is conservative, and the Democratic party is rather liberal when considering the civil rights of the citizens. However, Schickler, Pearson, and Feinstein (2010) point out that it was a Republican Congress in 1890 that pushed for voting rights for the African Americans and a Democratic party that created a filibuster to prevent such a change. Yet, in 1960, there was a dramatic shift in the ideologies and ethical platforms which resulted in a division where “Northern Democrats had become the strongest advocates of civil rights, while Republicans were split, and southern Democratic opposition persisted” (Schickler, Pearson, & Feinstein, 2010, pg. 672). As this trend continues, it is noted by Huber (2016) that the current American president has been quoted as being a racist and is backed by the Republican party.
The changes in these ideologies are more closely related to the appeal of the American public through the media and established fears associated with these reports. Racism in the early society was accepted and therefore the Democratic party aligned the platform. In modern times, liberal notions are the norm among millennials which has resulted in a shift in the Democratic party. The Republicans appear to use the media portrayal to determine the platform while the Democratic party appears to go against this trend and speak against the fears.