Mann, Thomas E. and Norman J. Ornstein. It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. New York: Basic Books, 2013.

The authors of this book are two long-time scholars of Congress, one of whom is more politically liberal and one more conservative. They wrote this book as a follow up to The Broken Branch, their history of the growth of partisanship and the decline of order in Congress. The title, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, evidences the authors’ well-founded belief that things have gone even more awry since their earlier book was published.  (In this regard, see the great one-minute “dancing dots” animation video that depicts how much more divided Congress has become over the last sixty years in the “Video” section of this blog.) [here]

 

My goal in trying to help revive the Liberal Republican branch of the Republican Party is to restore pragmatic, consensus-oriented government. To do that, not only will it be necessary to elect politicians who adhere broadly to a Liberal Republican platform, but it will also be necessary to make their voices meaningful as swing votes who can vote with more conservative Republicans or with more moderate Democrats on an issue-by-issue basis. This will require breaking the strangehold the current Republican Party House and Senate leadership wield over their members (though, as we have seen with the recent attempts to repeal Obamacare, this strangehold has begun to fray.)

 

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks and its predecessor can help explain to political scientists, political activists and young people who are anxious to make their mark in the political world, how Congress became the “vehemently adversarial” (Mann and Ornstein’s words) place that it now is. These books can also guide us how to attempt to undo the dysfunction.[1]

 


[1] Senator John McCain’s July speech advocating for a “return to regular order” is worth watching or reading in full. [links here]‎ It reinforces the points Mann and Ornstein make about just how uncompromising Congress has become and how it is adversely affecting American governance.

Here are some excerpts from McCain’s amazing speech:

“The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries. That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.”

“‎Our deliberations today…are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. [Senator McCain has been a United States Senator for over thirty years]…I think we would all agree that [our deliberations] haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.”

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline–either by deliberate actions or neglect…Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.”

“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate…Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”