It’s the Republicans’ fault. Seriously.
Thomas E. Mann is a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Thus, the essay that appeared by them in The Washington Post six days ago, and that set off a kind of seismic chain reaction of positive and negative responses among readers and pundits, is birpartisan in origin (although the question of Ornstein’s validity as a real Republican has been called into question. An example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy at work, perhaps?)
The authors adapted the essay from their new book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. In my opinion, it constitutes Necessary Reading, and the book has now moved to a high spot on my must-read list.
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges
…Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented. In the third and now fourth years of the Obama presidency, divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in our time in Washington, with partisan divides even leading last year to America’s first credit downgrade.
…We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public. Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
Full story: “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem,” Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, The Washington Post, April 27, 2012