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

In This Issue: THE CONSTITUTION PROBLEM

►The Constitutional Issue: 1930’s vs. 2010

►America’s Second War for Independence

►Reprise, The Honduras Affair

►The Supreme Court and Popular Sovereighity

        THE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE: 1930s VS 2010s

DO OBAMA "LIBERALS" BELIEVE IN CONSTITUTIONALISM?

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

 

There is at least one striking difference between the situation today and that of four score years ago.  Then, the President and the majority party in Congress gained office by larger majorities, and those majorities were further extended in two successive elections.  In electoral terms, the Administration of Franklin Roosevelt was a unique episode of our history.  Furthermore, that electoral triumph was achieved in spite of the continuing bitter opposition of most elements in the traditional media.

 

The present Administration has yet to display any evidence of growing or lasting popularity.  And, unlike the issues of long ago, this administration’s appeal has been strongly supported by most of the traditional media, journalistic and academic.

 

If further evidence of thin ice is needed, consider that some major elements of the coalition supporting the Obama Administration are potentially major embarrassments to the nation internationally, if not domestically.  The environmental movement of the United States has recently been the foremost contributor to an unprecedented genocide—unprecedented mainly because it was primarily a product of regulatory haste rather than of totalitarian hate.  Additionally, the now largely unionized education profession has converted what was once perhaps the world’s leading educational system into a largely stagnant promoter of political correctness.

 

Surely there are constitutional grounds here enough to delay any blessing by the nation’s Supreme Court, at least to a point beyond the opportunity for Americans to register another statement of their sovereign intent.

 AMERICA’S SECOND WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

In 1776, it wasn’t that the British were, for that time, terrible rulers.  Indeed many of their political gifts to the world survive today, especially here.  It was, then, that too much of the political and economic tradition that prevailed over there fit poorly the geographical and social circumstances that prevailed in thirteen American colonies.  Our first war for independence had a substantial real world basis, and the out come has long since ratified its initial uncertainty.

 

So why, now, do we need another war for independence?  Actually, I believe that the “Tea Party Movement” may be right again.  And, by that I suggest that the Obama Administration is no more comprehending of prevailing realities than George III was long ago.  Of course the real world and the size of its human content are much changed during more than two intervening centuries.  But, greater numbers and more complex organizations have not altered fundamentally the nature of human individuals.

 

Our great challenge, today, is how best to meld an erupting mass of new details about our world, both natural and social, with the high value of freedoms for both individuals and private organizations. I can see little evidence that the Obama Administration has taken time to think much about any challenge beyond the means of establishing its own domestic hegemony.

 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 had 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.

     THE SUPREME COURT

AND POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY

By Ivan W. Parkins

(This is a reprint from 2009)

     Should the Supreme Court of the United States adhere strictly to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, or may the Court adapt constitutional language to historical trends?

 

     If one compares closely what was probably the greatest Supreme Court decision of the twentieth century, Brown v. Board of Education, cited in some arguments for a more “liberal” approach, I believe that he will see that the Warren Court’s holding differed little from Justice Brown’s holding in 1896 regarding the Constitution.  Brown said that the Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, requires “absolutely equal treatment” of the races in public facilities.  The difference between the two was not on the constitutional language but on what, in fact, is equal treatment.  The old decision was that separate facilities could be equal; the newer decision is that they are not equal. Even if the words of law are seen to be unchanging, the facts to which they apply may change.

 

     The growth and mobility of our population and industry have certainly changed.  John Marshall’s original holding in Gibbons v. Ogden that “commerce among the states” meant that commerce that affects more states than one seems logical enough.  But, facts are certainly changing when mortgages that are issued by private banks under state laws become “toxic” and disruptive to national and world-wide finance.  Actually, many of those mortgages were granted by banks under federal pressure to extend credit to previously unqualified applicants.

 

     The Supreme Court’s great decisions on racial equality (1950s) and on equal legislative districting (a few years later) did represent some extensions of its authority.  However, these decisions were also major advances in popular sovereignty, advances that Congresses had, for decades, failed to make.  And they soon received the approval of most of the public.  In those cases, I believe that the Court honored the most basic of our constitutional principals, popular sovereignty.

 

     There is good historical ground for believing that major Supreme Court decisions of the period prior to World War II, when they conflicted sharply with actions of the elective branches, were soon overcome by popular politics.  Apparently, that is now less true.  One of the baldest evidences of more recent thinking is the statement of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall that he was only doing what the people would do if they knew what he knew. I remarked to my class in Constitutional Law at the time that the reasoning was remarkably similar to some by Fuhrer Adolph Hitler.

 

      Increasingly, we are faced with “entitlements” that alter the capacity of newly elected Congresses to make new policies and also with judicial references to foreign political entities as authoritative.  Such things are good reasons to fear that an articulate minority of Americans, strongly entrenched in the information media and some times successful in elections, will work with the Judiciary to limit the effectiveness of our Constitution’s most fundamental principal.  That principal is popular sovereignty. I.W. Parkins 041909

THE HONDURAS AFFAIR

DOES THE ADMINISTRATION REALLY

UNDERSTAND CONSTITUTIONAL

DEMOCRACY?

(this is a reprint from July 2009, issue 17)

By Ivan W. Parkins

      Rarely, if ever, has an Administration of the United States demonstrated so little appreciation of what constitutional democracy means as both the President and the Secretary of State did recently regarding events in Honduras.  It only deepens the question of their wisdom when we note that both have extensive legal back grounds. Yes, President Zelaya had been duly elected, but he was seeking, illegally, to force a plebiscite that would likely extend his rule.

 

     Even allowing for the embarrassment of President Zelaya’s undignified deportation in the hands of the military, the legislative and judicial heads of Honduran government acted, in a constitutional sense, far more appropriately than either Zelaya or our own top executives did.

 

     No doubt the incident is a major thorn in the side of our own Administration, considering that we are trying to oversee pending elections in two nascent constitutional democracies.  Still, such a display of low regard for “constitutionalism” as opposed to “democracy” is not helpful.

 

      For more than two millennia political thought has featured mob rule as the demise of democracy.  The Constitution of the United States has become an international symbol  of how democracy can be tamed from its wilder past excesses.

 

       Now, and here at home, the Obama Administration’s haste in seeking vast new “entitlements” without clear public information and acceptance of how they are likely to weigh upon the future of America’s constitutional democracy projects questions about legality.  Those questions can only be hardened by the Administration’s reaction to the Zelaya affair.

 

       All of the above would be much less compelling if it did not follow more than forty years of political turmoil and confusion regarding the Constitution of the United States. 

 

      Since at least 1968, the difference between a “people’s government” and constitutional democracy has been confused, especially by the “liberal” Democrats and the “mainstream media” of Estados Unides del Norte.

 

      Real constitutionalism defines the offices of government and their powers, plus rights of the people, and requires previously devised and specific measures, usually some special election(s), in order to make changes.

 

      Zelaya of Honduras was attempting a coup d etat by means of illegal elections; the other branches opposed and thwarted him.  Our President and Secretary of State displayed their ignorance of constitutional democracy by coming to the aid of Zelaya.

 

      Actually, all of this, in both the United States and Honduras, is a major illustration of how much very rapid communication and mass media are altering the dynamics of our traditional constitutional democratic government.

I.W.Parkins 072709