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Unintended Consequences

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Carroll G. Robinson and Michael O. Adams
December 20, 2016

america-1312790_640Here is the truth: Hillary Clinton did not lose the 2016 presidential election because of low black voter turnout, voter suppression, Hispanics voting for Trump or white men. Clinton lost because not enough white women voted for her.

Race may have been an issue in 2016, but the same white voters who voted against Clinton in 2016 voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats are making a mistake if they think the description “working class” only applies to rural white men in the Midwestern states that voted for Trump.

People of color get up every day and go to work all across America – in rural communities, suburbs and inner cities. They are blue and white collar workers, teachers, engineers, farmers, small-business owners and entrepreneurs, firefighters and police officers. They work in all industries and economic sectors just like white Americans. They too want good paying jobs that will lift them and their families out of poverty and into the middle class. They want shared prosperity so they too can convert income into wealth for a secure retirement and to have something to pass on to their children and grandchildren (intergenerational wealth).

Appealing to working class voters does not require two messages, one for white rural voters and a different message for African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian voters, especially those who live in urban America. All that is needed is one message: opportunity, responsibility and shared prosperity.

All Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, want a nation that is fair, inclusive and works for them. They want a nation committed to protecting their interests and places their children on equal footing with all other Americans.

We all want equal treatment in public policy and equal treatment under the law in the criminal justice system – from policing, to prosecutorial discretion, to the grand jury, trial, and sentencing. This also holds true for the civil justice system.

It is said that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Everyone calling for the elimination of the Electoral College should remember that their preferred candidate may not always be the winner (50%+1) of the national popular vote and that there could be serious unintended consequences if they achieve their goal.

State-based “favorite son/daughter” candidates, as well as third party candidates, could upend the well-intended assumptions motivating those calling for the elimination of the Electoral College. What then?

What will happen in future elections if electors vote to overturn the election of Donald Trump? How many Americans would consider that a coup d’ etat? What would that do to the stability of our nation? There are already people in Texas and California talking about secession.

Elections have consequences but one of them should not be bringing our nation down from within.

America has survived a Civil War, the Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II, the Vietnam War and the Reagan Revolution. America will survive Donald Trump unless people make emotional mistakes that legitimize modern day nullification of federal law and open the door to a Constitutional Convention called by the states.

This year’s presidential election may turn out to be a tipping point in American history that eventually does what a Civil War could not do. We hope not.


AuthorsRobinson and Adams are members of the faculty of the political science department at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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