Ivan W. Parkins


©Ivan W. Parkins 2008,  All articles, text, web pages property of Ivan W. Parkins.  Use of any material requires permission of the author and can be obtained by contacting info@americanpoliticalcommentary.com


Or How the Media makes Popular Presidents Impotent

By Ivan Parkins


During the Franklin Roosevelt Administration, and for about a decade after, “liberal” academics contended that strong executive leadership had rescued our divided political system.  The weakness, an inability to control powerful minority interests, was not represented in the presidential administrations of the two Roosevelt’s, Lincoln and Jackson. They had supposedly rescued America by an ability to control powerful minority interests.  I did, and I do, subscribe to that broad thesis.

             What materialized during the Vietnam War, and especially in the 1968 elections, was the rise of a new special interest or elite.  Burgeoning college enrollments, new and more pervasive media communication, private foundations, etc. created a rapidly growing mass of extensively schooled and nationally organized persons.  Dominating, as they did and still do, the main channels of communication, they maligned old institutions and elites.  Meanwhile, they made themselves the most politically potent and legally protected elite- and ultimately the enemies of strong Presidents.

             In this nation, a clear and lasting majority of the public can accomplish almost anything, politically.  But only a talented and vigorous President is able to assemble and maintain majority support.  In the late twentieth century, with the outlets for political information more centralized and united than ever before, we had conflicts on an unprecedented scale between professional communicators and those Presidents who won the largest popular majorities at the polls.

             Americans are now understandably confused and depressed.  The solution, I’m convinced, is more diverse information and accountability of professional communicators regarding the information that they disseminate.

             The First Amendment should not canonize professors, journalists, artists, or protesters.


I.W. Parkins, January 25, 2008

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. 

Front Page

Inside This Issue

Front Page Archive 2008 Archive 2009

Page 2, Disassemble the House

Page 3, Media Bias

Page 4, Book Reviews

Page 5, War and Their Costs

Page 6, Broken Congress

Page 7, Dividing America

Page 8, Dividing America, Part two

Page 9, Disinformation, Liberal Ideology

Page 10, The Supreme Court and Judiciary

Page 11, Environmentalism


The Presidency

And Our Constitutional System

The following articles are centered around the power of the President, and the role that  political parties and the media have in it.




You Just Might Get Real Change


By Ivan W. Parkins


     This is a largely negative account.  My excuse is that I believe most Americans are not conscious of the fact that they have never witnessed one four-year term in which a Republican President was able to function with the support of substantial Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress and substantial media support.  I have, but as a first-grader I was too young during 1928 to remember much of it.  For a great majority of Americans, such a term may be the greatest change possible within orderly political processes.


      Since Franklin Roosevelt took office more than three-quarters of a century ago no term of Republican Administration has included both the Presidency and comfortable majorities in both Houses of Congress.  In more than seventy-five years only six years have included Republican control of all three elected branches, and those were all by narrow margins.  Democrat Administrations, especially in the early part of that period, had many more years of partisan unity, and by much larger margins.  In comparing party accomplishments, shouldn’t that be considered?


      As the crisis in Georgia illustrates, the War on Terror is not the full extent of our danger.  Both our continuing leadership in civil matters and our ability to defend ourselves are challenged.  And, since the mid-1960s Democrats have been mostly noise or dead weight.  Now, the question of a dependable supply of oil, both as an energy source and as a feed stock for much of our industry, has become critical.  Democrats, in varying degrees, are largely opposed to our further exploitation of domestic resources.


     Regarding our economy, Democrats devote their attention mostly to oversight of our business enterprises, often hobbling them with taxes on investment, unpredictable legal liabilities, and social responsibilities better assigned elsewhere.  In spite of that, our economy has prospered, and it is doing so in international trade.  But, Democrats are reluctant to encourage such trade because of their heavy dependence upon the support of labor unions, predatory lawyers, and sanctimonious social action groups. 


     Where our unelected Judicial Branch is concerned, Democrats have made lengthy tests of “social service,” as opposed to judicial experience and temperament, the chief hurdle to advancement.  Often they have shown no regard for the Constitution as a multigenerational consensus on the form of our government, and seem obsessed with it as just another instrument of policy formulation.  The next administration will likely have an opportunity to decide whether Western and Anglo-American constitutionalism or more quasi-Marxist domination by “ruling class” politics prevails in the United States.


     The elections of 2008 will be a watershed, in part, because of their implications for the future of our nation’s information system.  Democratic dominance, referred to above, especially that in the Houses of Congress and their success in hobbling the Executive Branch, has been possible largely because our information system, academic and artistic as well as journalistic, has been heavily biased in the Democrats’ favor.  Recently, that has begun to decline.  As major Democratic victory at this time would almost certainly be followed by efforts to reinforce the old bias.  And that places America’s future as the leading example of representative democracy in danger.


     Need I add; I will vote Republican!  I believe that a major party in temporary control is essential to the effective management of our government.  I regret to say that I believe only one American party is, now, an appropriate choice for the job.


     On behalf of Republican Presidents I note, again, that beginning with Eisenhower, they have faced an historically unique hurdle in the almost total lack of partisan majorities in Congress.  And I attribute that, largely, to the increasing role and unity of  our mass information media in our political choices. Yes, Republican Presidents have often agreed to spend too much.  But, recalling President George H.W. Bush’s acquiescence, who wouldn’t yield a few billions to congressional “boodlers” in order to prevent hostile dominance of Middle Eastern oil resources?  In foreign affairs, where the Constitution grants the initiative to Chief Executives, Republican Presidents have served us particularly well—at least until Democrat Congresses could get the upper hand.













LETTER TO THE EDITOR, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 

1/ 11/1987:

    Mount  Pleasant, Mich. - Concern for the presidency deserves priority over concern for Ronald Reagan, as suggested in Bill Shipp's Dec. 26 column.  However, my concern for the presidency first became critical when Lyndon Johnson was being hounded from office in 1968.

    I was reassured by the vigorous leadership of Richard Nixon and by his record plurality in 1972.  We all know the outcome of that.

    Ronald Reagan has been a significant president because of his capacity to win and retain a large popular following and because of his success in imparting a spirit of hope and direction to America.  Much more than his personality and reputation is at stake.

    If, within one generation, a third president of the United States is driven into oblivion not long after winning a landslide confirmation of his leadership, I will regard that as the greatest repudiation of constitutional democracy in history. I.W. Parkins


Arrow’s Dilemma: No Majority, No Compromise

Column, 2/16/81; Mt. Pleasant, MI; An analysis of President Reagan the workings of the Congress

By Ivan W. Parkins

     By a strange sort of irony, our government, while trying to serve everybody, is failing to serve anybody.

    It is, of course, essential to democracy that majority opinion should determine, at least in a general way, the direction in which to go, even if that direction is only the preservation of public order.  Without a direction, any government becomes arbitrary and capricious.

    Early in American history the direction of most people, and of the government, was determined, mainly, by the nature of this sparsely settled continent.  The Constitution of the United States, designed to strengthen our republic against divisive provincial factions, provided only minimal unity.

    Further unification of America occurred as more and more we exchanged our places of residence and the products of our labor with one another.  The growth of political parties and the development of a popular Presidency enabled government to keep pace with our changing society.

    Since World War II, however, neither parties nor presidents have done well at organizing public opinion and directing government.  America has become directionless and divided.

James Madison, in Number 10 of "The Federalist," suggested that, although the causes of faction would always be with us, majoritarian principles and the difficulty of communication in our extensive country would minimize dangers from either minority domination or mob rule.  Now, the technology of communication and the political changes, which it sustains, have made Madison's judgment obsolete.  Messages are transmitted instantaneously throughout the land.  The scattered members of social and economic factions, being able to communicate with and to reinforce one another, are under less pressure to compromise with other groups.  Meanwhile, emotional masses, no matter how numerous, can tune in simultaneously to a demagogic appeal or reported crises.

    Our government reflects the changed realities of communications technology and opinion leadership.  During the first half of the 20th Century the Presidency gained in power and influence, presidents could communicate more directly with the people.  Recently, however, continuing technological advances have enabled a variety of leaders to be heard nationwide.  Furthermore, mass media are displacing political parties as the keys to winning elective office.  Presidency and parties, once our major political unifiers, have both declined.

    Today, we face in multiple and complex forms a disability named Arrow's dilemma.  Briefly it is this.  If a society divides over policy issues, not into majority and minority positions, but into three or more positions, all of them minorities and uncompromising in nature, no democratic solution remains possible.

    There is substantial evidence in the opinion polls that our crisis during the Vietnam War was an actual instance of the dilemma, which Kenneth Arrow envisioned.

    Following the Tet offensive, Americans divided, roughly, into thirds who: 1 - supported our government, 2 - favored unlimited war, 3 - favored immediate withdrawal.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans opposed each of the major policy alternatives.

    Thanks largely to communications technology, it is now easier than ever before to maintain factional political organizations and viewpoints on a nationwide basis, and, at the same time, it is more difficult to persuade and organize any continuing majority.  Adapting to these new circumstances our government is increasingly oriented to pressures of organized minorities.  Majority and minority party votes are less significant in Congress.  There, subject matter committees, with virtually permanent senior memberships, divide up the legislative powers.  Congress sees to it that executive branch organization does not vary too far from the congressional model.  Triangular political alliances between special interests, congressional committees, and executive bureaus are closer and more lasting than any presidential administration in recent history.  If the well-organized special interest meets effective opposition it is most likely to be from some competitive special interest or as a result of an emotional and brief wave of public opinion.

    The recent incapacity of our government to identify and pursue an effective foreign policy, or to cope with increasing deficits and inflation are not accidental, not merely the errors of particular men or parties or the results of particular events.  Our major problems are systemic.  American opinion now has its most direct and lasting impact upon our government through special interest organizations, which demand, chiefly, greater benefits for their own members.  Congress tries to accommodate each group.  That is inflationary.

    Meanwhile, other opinion becomes articulate and effective in relatively brief and emotional flurries (i.e. McCarthyism, antiwar protest, and Moral Majority).  This is especially inadequate as a basis for foreign policy.

    What President Reagan is attempting to accomplish will require, almost, a political miracle.  Our fundamental problem of recent years is not that we have lacked wise leaders or policy proposals.  Our greatest problem is that we have lacked a capacity to identify and to sustain political majorities in support of any policy whatever.

    If Ronald Reagan can, by his appeals to our latent national pride and his cultivation of former opponents, unite a majority of Americans, his achievement will be substantial.  If he can then devise means of sustaining an effective popular majority beyond one term of office, it will be a near miracle.

And yet in retrospect he did just that-8/16/2008, I.W.Parkins

We know what happened to President Nixon, but how much do we know about why?

    Nixon resigned rather than risk a bitter and nationally divisive impeachment fight, which it appeared that he would lose.  Chief among the charges pending against him was abuse of power.  And, one of the most substantial items in that charge was that he impounded, i.e. refused to spend, about half of the funds which Congress had appropriated for Senator Muskie's Clean Water Act.  Even the Supreme Court held against the President in that matter.

    Years later, it occurred to me that there should be new evidence re that charge.  I checked THE STATISTICAL ABSTRACT for what we actually did spend.  With Nixon out of the way, we spent just about what he had recommended.

I.W. Parkins