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It’s Our Fault

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

By Carroll G. Robinson, Esq. and Dr. Michael O. Adams
June 6, 2017

Congress is dysfunctional and it’s our fault. “We the People”-voters keep re-electing the same people to Congress and Senate expecting a different outcome. Debate has been displaced by partisan disagreement. Common ground and compromise are now considered heresy.

Public opinion surveys continuously show a significant portion of the American people have a low opinion of Congress and its effectiveness yet we keep re-electing our individual member of Congress out of either the believe “my” member is not the problem or because voters don’t understand how much influence party politics/loyalty/group think influences the behavior and decision making of their member when he or she is in Washington, DC.

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Einstein is said to have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

Fixing Congress is going to require more than just redistricting reform. Non-partisan Redistricting Commissions won’t be enough. Voters are going to have to take matters into our own hands and become more sophisticated and strategic voters. We need to elect more women and centrist candidates to Congress. To get this done, sometimes voters will have to crossover and vote in another party’s primary to get the job done.

In jurisdictions where citizen initiatives are allowed, voters should use the process to implement alternative voting systems. (See Minority Voting Rights and Judicial Selection Reform in Texas: Why Not A Modified At-Large Voting System? on page 11.)

Voters are also going to have to be courageous enough to impose term limits themselves at the ballot box. Voters are going to have to retire ineffective members of Congress; individuals who are unwilling or unable to help find, forge, advocate and advance common sense solutions to the challenges facing our nation.

Partisan rhetoric is not going to address and end the negative health effects of pollution in minority communities. It’s not going to lift people out of poverty in the richest nation in the history of the world. It’s not going to address or shape the economic and employment changes being driven by artificial intelligence and the “sharing economy” it is helping to create.

Having the largest, best funded military in the world will not be enough if all American children don’t have access to quality Pre-K, can read and do math at grade level by third grade and graduate from high school, on time, college and career ready. This must be a national standard. Intellectual capital is the new coin of the global realm. If educational achievement and success are not our first domestic priorities, our nation’s future economic growth will be compromised. A well-funded military is only possible because of a strong domestic economy.

America needs a Congress that understands these things and will work together to get them done. Voters will have to drive that message home by voting people out of office until those who get there, get it and start working together for the people and not for themselves or special interests.

Essentially, voters have to re-train their elected officials as we sometimes have to do with our pets.


Authors: Robinson 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.

2 Responses to It’s Our Fault

  1. Joe Adams Reply

    June 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Voting is just a start. Uncontested elections matter too. We need a choice of candidates at every level.

  2. Robin Marshall Bittick Reply

    June 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Excellent article! In addition to public administration, one of my fields of study is US National Security. I teach my students that national security is much more than the military. It involves human and social capital. As the authors note, “If educational achievement and success are not our first domestic priorities, our nation’s future economic growth will be compromised. A well-funded military is only possible because of a strong domestic economy.”

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