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American Political Commentary
Veritas Veneratio Virtus
I. W. Parkins
IN THIS ISSUE– The House of Representatives
-The Greatest Constitutional Flaw In Our System
-Increasing Disfunction of our Representatives (Reprise)
-A perspective for 2012
-Reprise– Congress: Road to Chaos
Links to Articles and Items of Interest
· Ann Coulter,“Obama’s Signature Move: Unsealing Private Records”
· Thomas Sowell on “Milton Friedman’s Centenary”
· Glen Hubbard, WSJ on “The Romney Plan for Economic Recovery”
· Richard Grenell,“Fox News on Coverage of Romney’s Recent Trip”
· Ann Coulter on “Obscurity: No Crueler Punishment”
· Amy Payne from Heritage “Justice Department Blocking Voter I.D.”
· Amy Payne on “Business Owners Battle Obamacare for Religious…”
· Rasmussen’s “Daily Tracking Poll” on Presidential race
· Breitbart.com– stories which are not seen in “the media”
· The Drudge Report—website by Matt Drudge
THE INCREASING DISFUNCTION
OF OUR REPRESENTATIVES
By Ivan W. Parkins
When our Constitution was adopted Virginia was America’s most populous state. Following the Census of 1790 it received 19 Representatives. Today, following the Census of 2010, VA has about ten times as many people and gets slightly over half as many Representatives. Those radically changed ratios are a significant part of our national problems today.
Yes, we have much faster travel and communication facilities today. But, time, in days and years is not much changed. And any of the “intimacy” that a Representative is supposed to establish and maintain with his individual constituents still requires almost as much time as it did more than two centuries ago.
The role of the national government in our lives has increased greatly. The officials that our Constitution provides to represent us are less and less able to do that. Also, in recent decades, fewer of those Americans eligible to vote have bothered to do so for Representatives.
This is not a formula for “government by the people.”
…. PARTISANSHIP AND FAILURE OF THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE
The current House of Representatives, led by Speaker Boehner and including Tea Partiers, is the only substantial Republican majority in that branch of our federal government since the Eightieth Congress of 1947-48. And, like that of the Eightieth, this Republican majority came in during the off-year election under a Democrat President. No Republican President in more than eighty years has enjoyed the support of so large a House majority; all Democrat Presidents in that period have had at least one majority that was larger than any of the Republican majorities.
I do aim my criticisms, following, at developments in our political system, developments that we and some of our forbearers have permitted to happen—not especially at current occupants of the House.
…..WHAT OUR CONSTITUTION DOES NOT MENTION—PARTIES
Before the new American nation had out-lived the Presidency of George Washington, political parties, Federalist plus Anti-Federalist or Democrat, had appeared. And, even before popular elections of presidential electors and Senators, parties were working to assure that the three branches were usually in synch. Off-year elections of Representatives created some partisan divisions, as did the six year terms of Senators. But, by the first presidential election in which as many as 9 or 10% of Americans participated, Andrew Jackson’s in 1828, partisanship was assuring that any winner of a popular majority and the Presidency would get also a majority likely to support him in the House of Representatives.
That partisan unity of President, House of Representatives, and (often) the Senate prevailed until 1956. In a year that saw President Eisenhower win by a landslide, the House of Representatives was won by Democrats. Perhaps “Ike’s” recent heart attack and the WWII basis of his fame were responsible. The “anomaly” was not much noticed.
Actually, the shift was more than an anomaly. Later Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and GHW Bush won four popular majorities, two of them landslides, but not one Republican House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Presidents Kennedy (49.7%), Johnson (61.7%), and Carter (50.1%) saw nothing except House majorities of their own party.
Recently, Republican President George Bush did enjoy some small majorities of his own party in the House. And, Democrat President Obama, though greeted initially by a Democrat House, lost it in a particularly severe off-year reversal of partisanship.
To what should such trends be attributed?
…...ONE MAJOR FLAW IN THE
One of the least realistic themes of the pre-2012 campaigning is the charge, often made by both Democrats and Tea Partiers, that Republicans should share in blame for long term imbalances in our federal financial policies. That, I contend, is largely an appeal to public ignorance.
Anyone with basic knowledge of our nation’s constitutional system and history will recognize that to enact, and to manage the budgeting of, major programs such as Social Security and national health insurance requires the cooperation of all three elective branches. But, in the past half century, Congresses have been overwhelmingly Democrat in composition and increasingly partisan in behavior.
In the more than fifty years since John Kennedy became President, he, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now President Obama, have all had years of partisan majorities in Congress larger than those of any recent Republican President. Indeed, only George W. Bush, among Republican Presidents, has had any such time at all, and his congressional majorities were small.
Republican successes have been, mostly, in foreign and military matters, fields where the Constitution gives prior responsibility to the Chief Executive (and that Democrats had nearly abandoned following 1968 in Vietnam).
PERSPECTIVE FOR 2012
By Ivan W. Parkins
By the 1960s television was the dominant news medium in America. Meanwhile, many thousands of “scholars” were being minted to teach the growing millions of college students. An information system that had been dominated by owners (including churches) and advertisers was acquiring national influence and an enhanced vision of its own “rights”. It wanted “changes.” With haste, and limited creative vision of its own, it accepted reversals of past values and behavior as “progressive.”
By the advent of the twenty-first century, the costs of such haste were becoming obvious. And new elements in the media, i.e. talk radio and cable television, were helping to make the public aware of costs, in human lives as well as in trillions of dollars, of the earlier decades of “progress.”
This nation’s balance sheet is now public issue number one, and the need for balance extends to much more than economics.
THE GREATEST CONSTITUTIONAL FLAW IN OUR SYSTEM
By Ivan W. Parkins
Soon after I began teaching American Government (about 1950) I was struck by the fact that our House of Representatives has become, in substance, almost totally different than the framers of our Constitution intended. THE FEDERALIST, Nos. 51 and 52 emphasized the need for close personal relationships of Representatives with their constituents.
As if to emphasize that, Chairman of the Constitutional Convention George Washington’s one contribution to the wording of the Constitution was a move to reduce the minimum size of congressional districts from 40,000 to 30,000, and that remains as part of Article I, Section 2.
James Madison, in the First Congress, proposed small populations as the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, but that has never been ratified. Today, our Representatives are supposed to be ‘intimately acquainted with” more constituents than there are minutes in a year.
Today, the House of Representatives is a perversion of the original Constitution’s intent. It is too much oriented to matters in Washington, D.C., and too remote from most of its constituents. But, that is not chiefly the fault of our Representatives. It is an oversight of nearly all Americans that has been too long allowed to fester.
By Ivan W. Parkins
Our national election system has become confused in ways that hamper effective leadership and obscure partisan responsibility. Since 1948, the first post WWII presidential election, five democrats (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton) have won office. There have also been five Republican winners (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, G. W. Bush).
But, contrary to our previous history, there has been little apparent correlation between presidential election successes and congressional support. In 1992, Clinton, who had just won 43% of the popular vote, entered office with larger majorities in both houses of Congress than any Republican President has had since the 1920’s.
Carter, a majority winner of the popular vote with 50.1% got one of the largest congressional majorities in our history.
Among recent Democrats, only Truman and Clinton have had to face Congresses dominated by the other party, and neither of those Presidents won a majority of the popular vote. Among the five recent Republicans were three winners of landslide reelections (Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan) and none of them got a Republican Congress with his new term.
Do American consciously vote against leadership and for partisan conflict, or are other factors shaping our election results?
CONGRESS ROAD TO CHAOS
By Ivan W. Parkins
It takes a bizarre partisanship for the majority of 110th. Congress to suppose that their modest victory (in an election attended by nearly 30 million fewer American voters than elected the 109th. (Two years earlier) mandates major changes in the nations direction. The evidence suggests more clearly that many Americans are alienated and confused about how their government does, or does not, work.
Congress has come to believe that oversight of the Executive and Judicial Branches is it’s most important function. And, the resulting conflicts do win media attention. Meanwhile, Congress focuses too little of its attention on providing our country with effective laws for dealing with
immigration, energy needs, etc. Even more significantly, Congress fails to approve timely, manageable, and “clean” budgets. If the United States is to survive and to prosper, it cannot afford a Legislative Branch that neglects its own primary, and most constructive, powers while it interferes in time-consuming and other damaging ways with the Executive and Judicial Branches.
No simple reform will remedy what has become a systemic and institutional failure of Congress. The problem extends beyond the short comings of individual members and practices. Congress must be reconstituted to be both closer to the American people and more respectful of the other branches. Anything less is just more pavement on the road to chaos.
I.W. Parkins 102708