One civil liberties event that influenced a sense of social responsibility in the American government today was March for Our Lives. This event, which took place on March, 24, 2018, included rallies across the United States, with the main rally in Washington, DC (Shabad, Bailey, & McCausland, 2018). It was organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida after a mass shooting occurred at the school. One of the main messages of the marchers was that there should be greater restrictions on the right to gun ownership (Shabad et al., 2018), which is one of the civil liberties enumerated in the Constitution. Around the country, state and local leaders responded in a socially responsible manner by proposing or enacting gun control legislation, including an assault weapons ban in Boulder, Colorado, and a law in Delaware to allow police to take weapons from individuals considered a danger to themselves or others (Haynes, 2018). At the federal level, lawmakers have reacted by proposing gun control legislation, but Congress has not taken action (Haynes, 2018).
Another civil liberties event that influenced a sense of social responsibility in the American government today was the significant increase in physical assaults on journalists in the United States in 2017 (Fletcher, 2018). This raised concerns in the government regarding the protection of freedom of the press, which is one of the civil liberties protected by the First Amendment. In response, a federal lawmaker, Eric Swalwell, introduced the Journalist Protection Act in the House of Representatives (Fletcher, 2018), which would make assaulting a journalist who is gathering or reporting news a federal crime (Fletcher, 2018). Although the bill has not passed, twelve other lawmakers have responded ethically by cosponsoring the bill (Fletcher, 2018).
One media event that negatively affected the public’s opinion of a government agency was the coverage of the Trump Administration’s 2018 policy of separating parents and children at the US-Mexico border. The media broadcast photos and videos of children in detention centers, as well as audio of children crying for their parents. This coverage led to a decline in the public perception of the Immigration and Customers Enforcement agency (ICE). The negative reaction suggests that the American people believe that the government agency should be responsible for protecting the US border, but this responsibility should not be so broad as to include the cruel treatment of children and families. Indeed, in the aftermath of the media coverage, many Americans have been calling for ICE to be abolished and that the responsibility of protecting the border be delegate to another government agency that would act in a more humane manner when dealing with the issue of family immigration.
Another media event that negatively affected the public’s opinion of a government agency was the coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster response in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina, there were months of media coverage of the destruction caused by the storm, the loss of life and property, and the significant challenges faced by the survivors. In particular, the media criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its failures before, during, and after the hurricane (Ahlers, 2006). This strong criticism from the media facilitated the development of negative perceptions of FEMA among the American people. After being exposed to the media coverage of the crisis, the public perception was that FEMA, as a government agency, has a significant obligation to the American people in terms of disaster response, and it failed to fulfill this responsibility during and after Hurricane Katrina.
One difference between the Republican and Democratic parties that may have an ethical impact on the American people is that they have different approaches to the issue healthcare. Specifically, the Republican Party states that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been “a disaster” and that it must be repealed and replaced (GOP, 2018). However, Republicans have been unable to articulate a clear replacement that can get through Congress. In contrast, the Democratic Party’s approach includes specific ideas to build on and improve the ACA. This difference has ethical implications for the American people because it means that Republicans have refused to settle for anything less than abolishing the ACA, but they have not been able to present and enact such as solution. This is a morally questionable situation because it has meant that the problems with the existing healthcare system are not being fixed, which is having negative financial and health impacts on the America people.
Another difference between the Republican and Democratic parties that may have an ethical impact on the American people is that the Republican Party has a placed a heavier focus on shaping the judicial branch than the Democratic Party. Recognizing the role that judges, especially those on the Supreme Court, can play in shaping American life, Republicans have cultivated a group of strong conservative judges, and they have encouraged their voters to cast their presidential ballots based on the president’s ability to nominate judges (Toobin, 2017). This approach was not adopted by the Democratic Party, and it has resulted in a situation of growing Republican control of the federal judiciary (Toobin, 2017). This could present ethical concerns for the American people because judges are traditionally non-ideological, but the Republican Party’s focus on the courts has rendered this less true in recent years. In the future, this could negatively affect the best interests of the American people by removing essential checks and balances on judicial power within the federal government.