In It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein argue that there are two overriding problems that have led Congress—and the United States—to the brink of institutional collapse. The first is the serious mismatch between our political parties, which have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, and a governing system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act. Second, while both parties participate in tribal warfare, both sides are not equally culpable. The political system faces what the authors call “asymmetric polarization,” with the Republican Party implacably refusing to allow anything that might help the Democrats politically, no matter the cost.
With dysfunction rooted in long-term political trends, a coarsened political culture and a new partisan media, the authors conclude that there is no “silver bullet” reform that can solve everything. But they offer a panoply of useful ideas and reforms, endorsing some solutions, like greater public participation and institutional restructuring of the House and Senate, while debunking others, like independent or third-party candidates. Above all, they call on the media as well as the public at large to focus on the true causes of dysfunction rather than just throwing the bums out every election cycle. Until voters learn to act strategically to reward problem solving and punish obstruction, American democracy will remain in serious danger.
Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution
A noted congressional scholar, Tom Mann writes and speaks widely on American politics and policymaking, including campaigns, elections, campaign finance reform and the effectiveness of Congress. His most recent book, co-authored with Norman Ornstein, is It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.
Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He writes a weekly column for Roll Call called "Congress Inside Out" and is an election eve analyst for CBS News. He served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by the Economist "a classic"); and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May by Basic Books.
Monday, June 25, 2012
4:00PM - 5:30PM
Reception to follow
Humphrey School of Public Affairs
301 19th Ave South, Minneapolis
This presentation is free and open to the public. Please RSVP at: http://mannornstein.eventbrite.com/
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