I'm a UK reader, but follow U.S.politics closely (esp. just now). This is an excellent read, a good insight into how the US system works (or doesn't sometimes). What it says is just as valid now under Trump/ GOP as it was under Obama and before. It's a clear study of how easy it is to impose gridlock on the legislative procedure - and maybe how the GOP has been splintered into irreconcilable factions. I felt it actually made a good case for a 3rd party. Enjoyed and recommended.
This is a nice, compact book on the reasons for the derailment of American politics. The authors see many reasons: 1) the GOP has allowed itself to be dominated by a fringe group (the Tea Party, but also other factions), because of 2) the importance of primary turnouts that challenge moderates (i.e. those willing to negotiate and compromise); 3) the need of the GOP to keep their base energized, necessitating ever more extreme positions, claims and rhetoric that are 4) magnified by talk radio and other conservative outlets; meanwhile, 5) the GOP opposition has adopted the tactics or parliamentary democracies in a presidential system with rules that allow minorities to disrupt the process, i.e. total ideological opposition that seeks to derail and destroy anything that their opponents (read Obama and the democrats) attempt regardless of the impact on society; finally 6) this provides incentive for GOP congressmen to operate in permanent campaign mode, neglecting their jobs to govern.
Anyone who reads the newspapers knows these things. What the book adds is to view the problems as an inter-related whole, of a piece, and they place the blame squarely in the GOP camp. They see a party that is losing not just its political bearing, but its anchor in reality. If you ask me, this is an extremely bleak assessment, something that can only be overcome by the implosion and rebirth of the GOP; if such a thing occurs, it risks to be in the form of a conflagration that could lead not only to disillusionment but perhaps even violence and civil war.
However, the authors express - inexplicably, in my view - their determined optimism that the system can evolve. In my reading, their remedies are largely procedural, based on tinkering with the electoral system or simply wishful thinking. It is extremely weak.
I recommend this for the analysis, but not for the suggestions. American institutions are facing their most serious crisis since, perhaps, the Civil War. We are completely stalled while our problems fester and our competitors pull ahead of us in education, the economic infrastructure, and research.
5.0 out of 5 starsHindsight Questions a Hopeful Outcome.
25 February 2018 - Published on Amazon.com
This excellent chronology of the growth of political dysfunction in America was written before the 2016 election and the hurtling furtherance of the ultra-conservative, authoritarian Republican agenda. The book’s primary value is as a history lesson, a detailed account of America’s fall from a democratic republic to the one-party system the nation is now shackled with. These two scholars lay out in enlightening fashion how we arrived at the governing debacle we now must endure, laying accurate and ample blame at the feet of a power-hungry GOP, a disheveled and disorganized Democratic Party, a naive and out of touch media, and a public still ensconced in Timothy Snyder’s “ politics of inevitability” or the belief that this nation is predestined to succeed. Unfortunately, Mann and Ornstein, like the media they criticize, also fall prey to this mindset and, in the process of laying out superb suggestions for change, lamenting at every turn how change is unlikely to happen because of the extreme ideological polarization of our government and our nation, fail to alert their readers to the true danger that the systemic alterations that are taking place are likely to pose for our future. The clear vision and pragmatism of these two scholars is impressive, but, sadly, offset by an inability to separate their hope that our democracy will survive from the reality that the trends they so meticulously chronicle are taking us in quite the opposite direction. This is a must-read if for no other reason than that it gives objective explanation to a process that has become so intense and volatile as to defy logical debate.
5.0 out of 5 starsRepublicans won't like it, but it's necessary reading for the rest of us
22 October 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Both sides do not do it.
That's the conclusion Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein reach in "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics of Extremism."
They place the blame for today's dysfunctional politics squarely on the Republican Party, whose members in both houses of Congress act as a parliamentary party does in Britain's winner-take-all system-ideologically polarized but internally unified and vehemently oppositional. That puts the GOP at odds with America's checks-and-balances, separation-of-powers governing system that all but demands compromise between parties by making it difficult for a majority party to work its will.
Mann and Ornstein begin telling the history of how we got here by using the 2011 debt limit crisis, in which Republicans threatened a default on the national debt for the sake of forcing President Obama to accept massive spending cuts, to illustrate concisely yet in detail the party's contempt for its Democratic opposition and for the government itself. They then trace these attitudes back to Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich, who came to the House of Representatives in the late 1970s desiring power for both himself and his party at the expense of good government by unifying House Republicans against the chamber's Democratic majority and convincing both the public and the news media that the House was corrupt-thus encouraging the electorate to distrust government reflexively and then vote for the party that shared its disdain for government. This cynicism, they contend, has created an impediment to political reform.
The scholars also properly heap scorn upon the media, which they contend has become so fixated with appearing "fair and balanced" that it has all but ignored the GOP's transformation into a party that puts America at risk by hindering it instead of helping it. They argue that it's become easier for journalists to write stories blaming both sides than it is for them to cover the real story.
Mann and Ornstein conclude by spending four chapters exploring various ideas, both bad and good, for resolving the problem. They advocate for, among other things, moving elections to weekends and making voting mandatory; campaign finance reform, including banning contributions from lobbyists; and even creating a parallel "shadow" Congress, comprised of ex-lawmakers, to debate issues of the day. These four chapters are both less passionate and more concerned with policy details than the three-chapter indictment of the GOP preceding it, but are still very readable for the general public.
The book's lone weakness lies in their belief that Republicans can and will become a party that believes in government's ability to help society-a belief many of today's Republicans seem to reject out of hand.
This is not a book some Republicans will want to read. It will leave Democrats wondering why their leaders insist on bipartisan consensus with those who dismiss their legitimacy. It will both anger and sadden nonpartisans. But for those who wonder how and why we got here, this is necessary reading.
4.0 out of 5 starsGreat Read! Slightly Dated, Mostly Current
12 February 2018 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Eye opening read about our dysfunctional government processes. A bit dated as It was written 2011/2012 (today's date: 12Feb2018), however the problems persist since many of the characters are still in power today. Though the authors do point out the dysfunctionality on the part of the Republican & Democrat parties, they do display a slight bend toward the Democratic party. I write that last sentence as I believe some of their ideas & suggestions regarding congressional processes & capitulating to presidential powers would not be gracing the pages given today's political climate (total control by one party, the Republicans), or at least I am glad some of their suggestions were not heeded. Their ideas & observations on party polarization (& how to lessen it), voter suppression, increasing voter turnout, gerrymandering, the corrupting power of money, etc..... are spot on.