Thomas Mann works for the Brookings Institute, Norman Ornstein at American Enterprise. They are centrists. They are long-time watchers of Washington. They have decided that it is time to call a spade a spade so to speak.
It’s time to stop being “bipartisan” when heaping guilt upon the parties for the impossible impasse that is today the US Congress. It’s time to stop looking to equalize out the blame. It’s time, in a word to just tell the truth.
The truth is not stunning to anybody who is fair-minded and watches the shenanigans of Washington with a practiced and alert eye. The true is that the Republican party has gone off the side rails and become as they put it an “outlier.”
Gone are the days of spirited disagreement between parties where the players respected and even liked each other and went out for dinner and a few drinks after arguing with each other all day over policy. Gone are the days where one side or the other even thinks the other side is legitimate. Gone are the days where civility is exercised in any other manner than with saracastic-dripping rhetoric.
That is the world we find ourselves in.
These two very sensible men trace the history of how we got to where we are and find that one party indeed is largely responsible for this state of affairs. It is not that the Democrats haven’t used many of the same tactics, but they have, as the authors tell us, used them still within the parameters of the game. They have not upset the board and sent all the pieces flying in some juvenile temper tantrum of anger.
It started during the Clinton years when Newt Gingrich and others bemoaned the inability of the GOP to gain control of Congress and be a real force. They concocted a scheme, and they played it out. They began an attack on the very institution itself and vilified the Democrats. They got what they asked for: a Congress that is held in disdain by some 80+% of the public. What the GOP has become is an ideological opposition party akin to what we see in Britain. But unlike Britain, we don’t elect a party and then give it control of the government to enact its agenda. Given our system, we just grind to a halt.
What the GOP once supported, they now stand firmly against, simply and ONLY because it is being offered by Mr. Obama and the Democrats. They have proven themselves perfectly willing to set political position above the country and its needs. They are willing to take hostages in order to force acquiesce to their ideologically pure mantras of no taxes, no matter how clearly the evidence suggests that such actions will cause more harm than good.
Worse, the media, beaten by years of being accused of being “leftist” is afraid to speak truth. Those parts of it that think of themselves as truly journalistic have succumbed to the falsity, that giving each side a fair hearing is somehow doing journalism. They simply provide a place where both sides can give their position, and do not mediate and call the out-right lies, what they are: lies.
Of course due credit is also do the influx of more and more outside money into the process, and the degree to which much of it can now be hidden. Credit is also do to those who rant incessantly without factual basis, acting like carnival barkers calling forth the worst fears and concerns of the masses.
Rational heads in the GOP are not responding. They are not calling out the birthers and the conspiracy hunters. They are not denouncing the Limbaughs and the Coulters, for their grifter-like rantings that make them lots of money while misleading and incensing a sadly uninformed public. Of course, what can one expect when the media makes no real attempt to inform.
Mann and Ornstein have sensible ideas of what we can do to return our government to functionality. Some of it starts with ways to engage the public through required voting and making voting easier. Some of obviously has to do with regulating money in our ever-going campaigns. Structural changes to the filibuster rule and to the practice of placing holds on legislation and on nominees to extract whatever a Senator wants in his home state are discussed.
It’s a great read. It’s full of examples that prove the point made again and again, that a parliamentary opposition party cannot function in a federalist system of checks and balances that is unique to the US. All it can do is obstruct, and keep the public good from being enacted.
This is more than a good read. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to do more than simply fling disgust at Washington. If you want to change things, then start here.
- Mann-Ornstein: “It’s Even Worse than It Looks” (delong.typepad.com)