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. 

Front Page

MESSY

POLITICS

Parallels to the Nazi Regime?

 

    Germany in the early 1930s was in deep economic trouble and political turmoil.  Hitler, by his own account, had learned from the failed coup of 1923 that only by a slower and (almost) legal approach was he likely to gain control.  Increasing following by extensive youth programs and by appeals to a variety of the disaffected became the Nazi approach.  Professor Herman Finer wrote that “The Middle class,” including “alienated intellectuals- teachers, journalists, artists” were the backbone of Hitler’s following.

 

     The large Nazi vote (There was no majority.) prompted President Hindenberg to invite Hitler into the cabinet. Hitler refused anything except the Chancellorship. He got that in1933.  Most, and the worst, of his crimes came later. -I.W. Parkins 1008

In This Issue:

*THE GREAT CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION,

   will the country survive this onslaught and what about  

   the next one?

*PARTISANSHIP AND REAL CHANGE

*CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS AND THE

   ANNOINTED

*MASS MEDIA’S IMPACT ON PUBLIC POLICY

THE GREAT CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

It is not what does some provision of the Constitution mean?  It is what does CONSTITUTIONALISM mean?

 

To the classical Greeks, and many who have followed them, constitutions have been little more than descriptions of how power was distributed, or not shared, in a particular government.

 

Among later Western intellectuals there developed views that people who shared a culture, especially a language, should have a government in which traditional practices and laws defined both the sharing of powers and the respective rights of monarchs and their various classes of subjects.  That, especially in England, became more and more closely defined by practice and in the courts, but was never codified into, or ratified as, the constitution.

 

The charters of colonies in what has become the United States were, in some respects models for governments whose forms and powers were defined in a single document.  Prior to our Revolution the document was usually issued by royal authority.

 

The ideas that peoples’ rights were primary, and that governments were created by popular authority, were growing.  And the colonies remoteness plus the lack of well entrenched earlier authorities or legal systems facilitated a relatively “clean” start here.  Once the royal governors were driven out, the rebellious colonies drafted and adopted their own constitutions. A loose unity was also established under Articles of Confederation. And with independence from Britain won, we were free to become, but not actually yet, a nation.

 

The framers of our Constitution were motivated largely by conflicts both within and between our states, and by the inadequacy of central government under the Articles.  They exceeded their authority, and acted in a well kept secrecy to draft a central government capable of making us a nation.  To assure that, it had to be presented as an act by “We the people of the United States,” and ratified by conventions in the states.  Now after more than two centuries of (mainly) successes it has been confirmed in the real world as one of humanity’s all-time achievements.

 

Our Constitution does provide for changes, and several major ones have been added by amendments. The document is however brief, and numerous lesser changes to our political system have been added by Supreme Court interpretation and extra-legal political practices, for example the role of political parties.  But, such changes are readily reversed by means similar to those that created them, if they prove unwise in practice.

 

The British system, lacking any single constitutional document, assigns constitutional importance to a variety of documents and precedents. One is that if the House of Commons wants to change or add to those, the Government (leading party) should propose the change, then call a national election, and make the change law if returned to power by that election.

 

The greatest danger of our proposed health care changes is that they will create fundamental alterations of our political system without either the extended formalities of a constitutional amendment or the open and popular process that the British system provides.  Such changes will enjoy neither the respect of constitutionality nor the public authentication of any truly popular approval.

 

In short, the Obama Administration is persistently seeking health reforms of a huge, complex, and still largely secret specific nature. It seems intent upon doing so by any means that can even pretend to be legal.  That amounts to an attempted coup. Even if it is initially successful, it deserves to be generally condemned as destructive to our constitutional system.

PARTISANSHIP AND REAL CHANGE

This is a reprint from July of 2008

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

   Since WWII, which of our major parties has had the greatest opportunity to provide us with sound long-term economic, social, and immigration policies?  Keep in mind creating sound long-term policies requires the cooperation of Presidents and Congresses.

 

   Since WWII:

     Even the least favored of five Democrat Presidents had, Clinton in 1993-4, two years with larger partisan majorities in both Houses of Congress than the most favored Republican President, Bush in 2005-6.

 

     Also, while all Democrat Presidents had opportunities to work with Congresses in which both Houses were controlled by their own party, Eisenhower’s very slim majority in 1953-4 was the only Republican advantage other than Bush’s.

 

     Two of the Democrats, Johnson and Carter, had huge majorities in both Houses of Congress, larger than any majorities enjoyed by a Republican President, ever in our history.

 

     Shouldn’t those facts enter into our calculations of how to achieve real change? July/08

 DO WE BELIEVE IN

 CONSTITUTIONALISM?

 

     The basic idea of constitutionalism is that the method of selection of officials and the powers allotted to them, as well as the rights of individual citizens, should be so lasting that they can only be changed by processes more careful and widely acceptable than the ordinary practices of governing.  I.W. Parkins

    

     The following articles relate to our constitution. Will the methods for passing the healthcare bill and the elements within be the destruction of our Constitutional System?

 

THE MASS MEDIA’S

IMPACT ON PUBLIC

POLICY

Letter to the Editor;

 U.S. NEWS and World Report

Unpublished 7/29/97

 

     The late Justice William Brennan’s attitudes (obituary, August 4) regarding fairness were similar to those which I expressed in my major piece of campaign literature, 1954, while seeking (unsuccessfully) a Democratic nomination to Congress. . . .

 

      Among the greatest of his innovations was establishing welfare as entitlement, a constitutional right.  In his GOLDBERG V. KELLY opinion, 1970, the key case, he acknowledged a debt to Professor Charles Reich of Yale Law.  Reich had argued, in review articles, for such a right to welfare benefits.  Reich is better known, however, for his GREENING OF AMERICA, also in 1970, a text of the youth rebellion, and one in which he acknowledges his debts, not to our founders and political history, but to Karl Marx, Professor Marcuse, and some writers of contemporary fiction.  Justice Brennan was a man of his time; it is less clear that he saw the value of continuity with the past, a basic principal of constitutionalism.

 

      What may be least understood by most Americans about Brennan’s judicial activism is its unique record of survival.  As Professor Robert Dahl of Yale (political science) discovered, nearly all major judicial conflicts with the legislative and executive branches prior to Brennan’s time were soon resolved in favor of the elective branches.  Only more recently has the U.S. Supreme Court made numerous broad and lasting decisions which became the policies of our government. Why; why now?

 

       The answer, I believe, lies in the development and influence of the mass media, especially television.  Alexander Hamilton’s famous prediction that the judiciary would always remain the weakest branch of our government, because it controlled neither the purse nor the sword, is invalid.  The media have become a major, if not the greatest, instrument of raw power.  During most of his long tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Brennan was in step with the media.

Constitutional Powers, the Anointed, and the People

An example of progressive liberalism that usurp the will of the American people

Letter to the editor; THE DETROIT NEWS, published  6/18/95

 

     Thank you for publishing Thomas Sowell’s topical criticisms of the U.S. Supreme Court.  (“High court turns 10th Amendment upside down,” May 29.)  But let me add a few points of background.

 

     First, the Constitution leaves to Congress the power to create the lower federal courts, to regulate both their jurisdictions and the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and to determine how many justices the Supreme Court shall have.

 

     Second, the federal judiciary’s decisions invalidating or prescribing acts of other officials on constitutional grounds have increased greatly in this century, especially since WWII.

 

      Third, prior to WWII, Supreme Court decisions holding that broad and popular acts were unconstitutional seldom prevailed.  Popular sovereignty in the form of constitutional amendments, renewed legislation, changes of court membership, etc. quickly overcame them.

 

      It is only quite recently, when some members of the judiciary became indistinguishable from the other political activists whom Sowell calls “the anointed,” that the federal courts have been able to thwart in major and lasting ways the will of the American people.  The emergence of the mass media as a potent instrument of political influence and the alignment of most of the media establishment with “anointed” members of the judiciary is, I believe, the best explanation of the change.