Ivan W. Parkins

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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

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Editors Note:

Dr. Parkins’s Grandson, Breton W. Hinkle, passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 14, 2009.  He leaves his wife Jen, parents Ray and Susan Hinkle, sister, Gretchen Hinkle, Richard and Kathy Bourque, Father and Mother in law, brother in laws Kevin and Brian and sister in law, Kelly.  He was a graduate of Michigan State University.  Bret was a United States Marine and had faithfully served his country with honor and distinction.   He will be terribly missed  by family and friends.  He was loved by all who knew him.  He was  buried with military honors in Holland, MI.   See Bret’s life story at http://www.lifestorynet.com/memories/45526/ 

    SOME NOMINATING CHANGES THAT ARE NEEDED

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     I doubt that elimination of popular elections for Presidents or Senators would be acceptable to Americans.  I also doubt that such a change would serve the country well.  But some of the similarities in how those two offices and that of the Representatives are filled can be changed, and can be made more similar to the Constitution’s original plan.  The nominations of likely candidates for those offices need not all be by similar, very expensive, and largely impersonal primaries engineered by election specialists.

 

     First, Representatives should be chosen from congressional districts small enough to facilitate one-on-one communication between Representatives and a substantial percentage of those whom they represent.  That, given the present, and growing, population of the United States, implies several thousand Representatives, too many to consult effectively as an assembly.  Therefore, Representatives should live in their districts and cast fewer, but more significant votes on major public policies.

 

      In a district of less than 100,000 an able individual, supported by a few dozen friends and neighbors, can establish him/her self as a serious candidate for office.  Cutting the present size of congressional districts by a factor of  ten or more should cut the costs of running an effective campaign in one of them by an even larger factor.  Primary elections there might even be dispensed with in favor of qualification by petitions and moderate filing fees.

 

     When it comes to Senators and Presidents, nominations are now by primary elections, and those are often the steepest hurdle that a candidate faces.  In them, more of the expense is likely to be born by the candidate and his closest supporters.  Furthermore, voter attendance is usually lower than in the general election, leaving more influence in the choice of candidates to special interests and extremists.

 

     Why not allow state legislators to nominate Senate candidates?  That would restore, in some part, the once great role of the states in our system.  If each member of the legislature were allowed to sign one petition of candidacy and a minimum of fifteen or twenty percent of the signatures were required competition, but not too many candidates, could be made likely.  Election would then be by the general public.  (This is a modification of my original proposal. See Disassemble the House )

 

     For the highest office, that of President, nomination by petitions, signed by the newly elected Representatives, should provide a better method than the present primaries.  Again, each Representative should have one vote and a minimal percentage or the total should be required for nomination, and that should provide competition while limiting  the number of candidates.

 

      The above system of nominations would still require some extensive organization, campaigning, and considerable expense, but those should be greatly reduced from the present.  The role of the less intensely interested and less extreme members of the public should be enhanced.   I.W.Parkins 051609

THE UNITED STATES AS

A DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC

 and OUR NATIONAL ELECTIONS

Our democracy needs a better understanding of the relationship between

the people, popular sovereignty and their government.

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     If  The United States is to remain true to its self-image as the world’s leading democratic republic it must reinvigorate popular sovereignty.  But, it must also recognize that a huge and expanding populace is more inclined to cacophony than to timely decision making.  What is it that the general public can best contribute to sound government?

 

     I suggest that participation of the general public is primarily valuable as the best indication of the effects that public policies are having domestically.  For that there should be an input from as much of the public as practicable.  And that input should be as direct as practicable.

 

     The secondary role of the general public is as a vast reservoir of experiences and talents from among whom, hopefully, a few of those varied individuals most suited to the roles can be elevated to lead and to administer public affairs.  That leaves plenty of problems about how to identify and promote those individuals.

 

      The present system is breaking down, with self-selected action groups, most of them identified with special economic and social interests, having excessive influence.  Such groups press officialdom at the top of government to enact policies that have neither a sound empirical basis nor majority support.

 

      Because the constitutional structure of our government has not kept pace with the changing demands upon it, official leadership is handicapped in its responses.  Because the resulting policies are often wasteful and disparate, few, if any, citizens can understand our government’s operations and many become disillusioned.

 

     Meanwhile, the chaos is a bonanza for centralized information media that have become themselves, perhaps the most potent special interest in the nation.  They, and that trend, have converted the First Amendment, now sanctified, into something that is often unhelpful to most of the public that it is supposed to serve. 

 

      The primary need of our democracy is for a closer relationship between the public and their government.

 

       Our Constitution, in its original form, provided that Representatives, Senators, and Presidents would each be chosen by a different process.  The general public would vote only for Representatives.  Now, however, Constitutional Amendments and revised practices make the manner of choosing all three branches very much alike, i.e. popular elections.  That, along with huge growths in population and in government’s complexity, makes the citizen’s role a heavy one.  Thus, many citizens unless pressed by active recruiters are likely to avoid the polls.

 

     Furthermore, the most complex part of the process, and that least attended by voters, is nominations of the candidates for office.  The nominating process is particularly subject to extremes of partisanship and to special interests. I.W. Parkins 051609

     REPRESENTATION:

BY THE NUMBERS

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     According to Richard Beeman’s recent and very good account of the Constitutional Convention, PLAIN, HONEST MEN, page 282, James “Madison had the foresight to see that the one-to-forty-thousand ratio might cause problems in the future”. . . and “if the union should be permanent, render the number of representatives excessive.”

 

     The actual starting ratio was one Representative to 30,000 people.  For half a century Congress made serious efforts to increase the numbers of Representatives with some regard for their proportion to the population increase.  After the 1840 Census, Congress essentially gave up; one Ohio Senator lamented the end of “a fireside acquaintance” of Representatives with their constituents.  Following the 1910 Census Congress fixed the number of Representatives at 435 (a ratio of about 1 to 215,000).  Not only does the average Representative today have over twenty times as many constituents as the earliest Representatives did, in 1790 the median age was less than 16 (In 1810, when the Census first reported ages, it was 16 and rising.).  For that and many other reasons, the proportion of constituents who are now eligible to vote is much higher than originally.

 

     Even 435 Representatives are, in my opinion, too many to legislate effectively as one body.  A House of too few to represent their constituents, and of too many to act in concert with one another is now the cancer that is degrading our constitutional, and political systems.  See Disassemble the House.  I.W.Parkins 051709

REAL,

CONSTITIONAL, CHANGE

Or how to make a dysfunctional House of Representatives more representative of the people

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

 

   REAL CHANGE is the title of Newt Gingrich’s new book.  I agree with most of the policies that he proposes; I also agreed with most of what he did as Speaker of the House.  But, I have grave doubts about the means by which he expects to accomplish so much.

 

   Mr. Gingrich himself cites an old axiom of Albert Einstein’s that doing more by the same methods that have failed repeatedly and expecting a different result is a sign of insanity.  Except for some other quotes that he cites, I might think Gingrich insane.  He also cites Eisenhower and Peter Drucker to the effect that often the answer to tough problems is to consider them as mere symptoms and attack the underlying cause.  That, I believe, is the way to real change in the performance of our government.

 

     Electing some other persons as Senators and Representatives and discarding a few dilatory rules of congressional procedure will only suppress a few symptoms.  The cancer has grown slowly and from causes that were largely obvious.  Huge growth in the population of the United States, even greater increase in our worldly economic and military power, and a transformation in the locus and focus of our information system have made Congress, especially the House of Representatives, dysfunctional.

 

     A growing separation between Representatives and the people whom they are expected to represent is obvious.  There is no way that a Representative can be “close” to more people than there are minutes in a year.  The almost year-around sessions allow congress persons fewer and fewer minutes to spend with constituents.  They have little practical choice but to cater to those who have the most to contribute to their reelections.

 

    Meanwhile, there is more public notice to be had by defying presidential leadership and partisan compromises than by cooperation in service to the nation.  That is especially damaging to national morale and to long-term policy formation.  Also more often than not destructive are numerous sensational investigations of the past, and often no longer significant, actions of the Executive and Judicial Branches.

 

     The necessary solution will be difficult, and its personal or partisan rewards will be remote.  Failing to take the hard course will assure that events will control us more and that we will control the events less.

 

See Dr. Parkins proposal:

  Disassemble the House

Our Democratic Republic,

 The Constitution, The Election Process and Popular Sovereignty

 

The following series of articles examine the relationship of the people to their  representatives, senators and president.  To preserve our republic some changes need to be considered.  Also, see Dr. Parkins's proposal on Disassemble the House