It's Even Worse Than It Looks
|Author||Thomas E. Mann
Norman J. Ornstein
|Subject||Politics of the United States|
|1 May 2012|
|Preceded by||The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track
It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism is a 2012 book of political analysis by Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, published by Basic Books. The authors state that the current U.S. Congress has reached a state of basic gridlock due to both major American political parties moving to solidly left-wing and right-wing sides, leaving the center, and becoming "vehemently adversarial". They also argue that, with the advent of the Tea Party movement and other activist groups calling for ideological purity, the U.S. Republican Party has particularly moved to a fringe position "unpersuaded by [the] conventional understanding of facts".
Norman Ornstein's work at the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann's work at the Brookings Institution had brought them into the public eye before, as well as giving them the respect of other political analysts. They previously collaborated on the well-regarded book The Broken Branch. The two have worked in Washington D.C. for more than forty years, Ornstein in particular having written columns for Roll Call and served as an election analyst for CBS News. According to NPR, "they're renowned for their carefully nonpartisan positions."
The authors analyze the current U.S. Congress, and they conclude that the lawmaking body is now almost completely ineffectual. Two sources of the problem are given. The first is the serious mismatch between the two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, in their view. They state that the groups "have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, and [in] a governing system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act".
Mann and Ornstein specifically criticize the right-ward move of the Republican Party, especially the use of administrative and parliamentary tricks to keep from having clear votes on some issues. The authors describe the party as "an insurgent outlier- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition".
They remark, "Acrimony and hyperpartisanship have seeped into every part of the political process. Congress is deadlocked and its approval ratings are at record lows. America’s two main political parties have given up their traditions of compromise, endangering our very system of constitutional democracy."
Mann and Ornstein also write, "Both sides in politics are no more necessarily equally responsible than a hit-and-run driver and a victim; reporters don't treat them as equivalent, and neither should they reflexively treat the parties that way."
Reception and reviews
The book was published the same year as the 2012 United States Presidential election. The election campaign brought attention to it as a descriptor of a major aspect of the campaign, the imbalance between the two major parties in the political degrees they went to win elections, and the difficulty the media had in avoiding false equivalence storylines. Prior to the book, the authors were routinely cited as sources by the national press.
The Economist published a mostly supportive review. The news-magazine remarked that Mann and Ornstein have "devoted a good deal of thought to ways the system can be rescued and improved" to "their great credit", praising the book's "constructive ideas".
- Lexington blog (26 April 2012). "Congress: Even worse". Lexington's Notebook. The Economist. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- Steve Inskeep (30 April 2012). "Extremism In Congress: 'Even Worse Than It Looks'?" (Interview). Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
GOP at root of dysfunction, Congressional scholars say
- "How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign", Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, December 7, 2012
- Savan, Leslie (January 11, 2013), "Banned From TV on Conventional Wisdom's Holy Day, Ornstein and Mann Briefly Return", The Nation, retrieved 2013-02-18
- It's Even Worse Than It Looks at the Basic Books website