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Front Page

In This Issue 

· Our Current Economic Crisis

· A Very Brief American

   Political  History

· Creating Liberties

· Democrats and Racial Disunity

………………….A KEY TO THE DEEP DIVISION OF AMERICA –THE MASS MEDIA 

             For the past half a century Americans have experienced growing conflict between the burgeoning “mainstream” mass media and those Chief Executives who have won by the largest popular margins.  Both have been key elements of our political system, and have claimed to speak for us.

             The clearest evidence of our problem is the fact that the three Presidents (one Democrat and two Republicans) who won the greatest popular pluralities, plus record majorities of the votes cast, were either driven from the office that they had recently won or sorely harassed in their conduct of it.  That would be less startling if it were not for the fact that all three were especially well known to the public before their elections to the Presidency.  And, all three of their landslide elections were returns to the office they had just occupied.

             Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, the branch of our government that was supposed to be closest to the people has been, during the same half century, almost a one-party stronghold, and often opposed to the Presidency. Thanks it appears to media influence upon relatively obscure political races for the House, Republicans have had only one  period of government unity, and that a narrow one.

Our Current

ECONOMIC CRISIS

There are contributing Political and Social Factors

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

It is good that Americans are largely focused upon our economic crisis.  With prompt and appropriate actions, the crisis may be less severe and more quickly concluded than many have anticipated that it would be.  As a former teacher and continuing student of the American constitutional system, I am deeply concerned about political and social factors that contributed to this and other recent crises.

 

Even brilliant individuals can accumulate and comprehend only small portions of the experience embodied in our expanding culture.  If individuals give too little attention to experiences and viewpoints of others who are quite different from themselves they will, almost certainly, be wrong in much of what they do.  The Youth Movement of the 1960s and 1970s made, disregard for others and the past, a sort of default position, freeing them to  emote and cogitate.  This arose, largely among students involved especially in the liberal arts of our leading universities. And it gained momentum and power from vastly expanded journalism and law departments. 

 

Thomas Sowell in his book, INTELLECTUALS AND SOCIETY, page 305, quotes Edward Shils, “The creation of nations out of tribes, in early modern times in Europe  and in contemporary Asia and Africa, is the work of intellectuals,” . . .  To that, Sowell, although he is black and is no friend to reversed racism, adds that intellectuals in Western nations today are largely engaged in creating tribes out of nations.

A VERY BRIEF

AMERICAN POLITICAL

HISTORY

WE NEED TO BE REMINDED

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

             As Americans, we pride ourselves on more than two centuries of constitutional democracy.  But, what do we really mean by that?   “Democracy” has held many and diverse meanings; most of our Founding Fathers feared it, but revered the more general idea of a popular sovereignty.  The Constitution was designed to provide authority widely distributed between states and federal government, and with the latter made up of three elected branches all headed by officials serving for brief and defined terms. We have not kept closely to that plan.

             The branch that the Framers expected to be most powerful, members of the House of Representatives, were to be chosen by the most popular election process and to serve brief terms.  It is set forth in Article I of the Constitution, and its enlargement with population growth was provided for in the first Article of Amendment proposed to, but not ratified by, the states as our Bill of Rights.  Both the President and Senators were to be chosen by a less direct and popular method, and for longer terms.

             Americans soon made changes, both in practice and by amendment, resulting in what are now essentially direct popular elections of all three branches.  Furthermore, elections of   Representatives have become the least well publicized and least well attended by voters.  The emergence of political parties, not mentioned in the Constitution, did usually result in unifications of all three elective branches temporarily as Administrations. During the first half of the twentieth century strong Presidents often led those Administrations.  That broke down, in a major way, only in 1956.  What we have seen since is an unprecedented amount of conflict between the elective branches.

             Now, all three of the federal elective branches are elected by popular means, from hugely populous districts, and largely by means of professionally managed mass media campaigns.                                                                                                                        

CREATING

LIBERTIES?

Column, THE MORNING SUN, 1/14/82-Edited for APC

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

     Although our Constitution has always been a legal document, and to a large degree enforceable in court, its strength and its value rest in large part upon the extent to which Americans revere it and apply it voluntarily.  Applied in such a manner, the Constitution supports and is supported by tolerance and civility.

     Unfortunately, some Americans have come to regard the Constitution as just another instrument in our adversary system of law.  For attitudes of tolerance and civility they substitute moral indignation and recondite dogma regarding individual rights.

      Fortunately, the dangers and causes of recent constitutional trends are becoming more widely recognized.  Archibald Cox in his recent book FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION laments the growing fragmentation of opinions from the Supreme Court.  He also suggests a cause.  He notes “the increasing use of law clerks who write opinions to justify their Justices’ votes.  Because each Justice has a number of law clerks and typically none serves more than one or two years, a heroic effort by a Justice would be required to impart unity of philosophy and authorship to the law clerks’ drafts.” 

      Law clerks, incidentally, are usually selected from among the most recent graduates of the Justices’ law schools.

      Do we really want our constitutional liberties to be defined by the processes recently employed?  If they continue to be defined in such a manner, is there any reason to believe that they will be respected?

…………….VOTER TURNOUT & OUR ELECTIONS

             Since Amendment XXVI to our Constitution was ratified in 1971, the turnout of voting age Americans for a national election has not reached 60%. Our last, 2008, was best at 56.8%.

             Perhaps more important is the difference between turnouts in Presidential and off-year elections.  It’s been more than a quarter of a century since the turnout in an off-year came within 20 million of the previous Presidential election.  In 2006, an off-year that gave us Pelosi and Reid as leaders of Congress, the voting fell more than 40 million below that cast in 2004.  The 2006 off-year vote was more than 50 million less than that in 2008.Source: Infoplease.com 

  ………….1961-2010, DEMOCRATS: HALF

CENTURY OF HOUSE MAJORITIES

             Four Democrat Presidents, beginning with Kennedy, all had substantial majorities in the House of Representatives with which to work.  Only Clinton had to work with a Republican House (12-26) votes for part of his time in office. In the 38 years of Democrat majorities during that period those majorities averaged about 84 votes.  The two smallest of the, two-year, Democrat majorities (49-50 votes) occurred under Presidents Nixon and Reagan.

             Meanwhile, there were 12 years of Republican majorities in the House, and those averaged about 21 votes.  There were also four Republican Presidents elected, plus Ford; and only George W. Bush enjoyed the support of any Republican majority in the House.  His largest was 39 votes. 

Democrats

And Racial

Disunity

This is a reprint from May, 2008

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

The “1960’s” were a turbulent time for American political parties.  Increased black participation was changing both the northern cities to which blacks were migrating and the old solid Democratic South.  Meanwhile, the Supreme Court held that America’s often very unequal legislative districting was unconstitutional.  How could Democrats survive the changes?

             More educated and “sophisticated” Democrats in the larger cities of the Northeast and Midwest would have additional congressional seats to work with.  The Old South would lose most of its near monopoly of congressional committee chairmanships.  Rural Republicans of the Midwest would lose numerous congressional seats, but many of them could be regained in the new suburbs that were emerging.

             A major question was how would be increasing black vote go?  Black voters had traditionally leaned Republican, until Franklin Roosevelt won many of them over.  More of the black vote, now would be strategically located in large cities and our most populous states.  Given the practice of allocating all of the electoral votes in most states to the presidential candidate who had plurality in that state, a bloc-vote by blacks in major cities became a major key to Democrat success.  Meanwhile, however, most of the new civil rights legislation had been enacted with largely, Republican support.

             Democrats needed to assure that a new and more militant leadership dominated black communities.  In that, the media, academic and artistic as well as journalistic, would be a great help. The new racial and civil rights picture that emerged in the 1960’s might have led to greater national unity than ever before.  But that might also have undermined a Democrat Party that had long depended upon the Solid South for its margins of victory.  Rather than face such a consequence, the more educated and “liberal” Democrats turned to memorializing past racial injustices and cultivating more militant black leaders.  Peace and racial unity would have to await another day.

I.W. Parkins, 5/08