Norman Ornstein

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Norman Ornstein

Norman J. Ornstein (born October 14, 1948) is a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington D.C. conservative think tank. He is the co-author (along with Thomas E. Mann) of It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.


Norman Jay Ornstein was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota[1] on October 14, 1948.[2] His father was a traveling salesman, and the family spent much of Norman's childhood in Canada. A child prodigy, Norman graduated from high school when he was only fourteen, and from college when he was just eighteen.[3] He received his BA from the University of Minnesota,[4] and subsequently received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan[5] in 1974. By the mid-1970s, he had become a professor of Political Science at Catholic University in Washington DC, and was already establishing a reputation as an expert on congress.[6]

Ornstein studies American politics and is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and many magazines, such as The Atlantic and the National Journal.[7] He wrote a weekly column for Roll Call from 1993 until April 10, 2013, and is currently co-director, along with Thomas E. Mann, of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. He helped draft key parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act.[8] Ornstein considers himself a centrist.[9]

Ornstein is a member of the Advisory Board of the Future of American Democracy Foundation,[10] a non-profit, nonpartisan foundation in partnership with Yale University Press and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies "dedicated to research and education aimed at renewing and sustaining the historic vision of American democracy".[11] He also served on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Law and Politics at the University of Minnesota Law School.[12] Ornstein is also a member of the Board of Directors of the nonpartisan election reform group Why Tuesday?. He is on the Advisory Council of the cross-partisan grassroots campaign Represent.Us,[13] where he served as a consultant in the crafting of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

Ornstein is married to Judith L. Harris, a litigation attorney specializing in regulatory matters. He is a long-time friend of U.S. Senator and left-leaning comedian Al Franken.[9] A fictional version of Ornstein appears in Franken's political spoof novel Why Not Me? as the campaign manager for Franken's improbable presidential run.[14]

Foreign Policy named Ornstein, along with Thomas E. Mann, one of its 2012 Top 100 Global Thinkers "for diagnosing America's political dysfunction".[15]

As of 2013, Ornstein has become known for "blistering critiques of Congress", which he has been following for the past three decades.[7][16]

Ornstein supports legally recognizing same-sex marriages.[17]



  1. ^ "Norm Ornstein". St. Louis Park Historical Society. 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Ornstein, Norman J.". Name Authority File. Library of Congress. April 2, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  3. ^ Steven Waldman. "The King of Quotes." Washington Monthly, December 1986, p. 35.
  4. ^ "Pitt's Honors College to Host Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein". University of Pittsburgh. November 17, 2008. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ Steve Goldberg. "Dr. Quote Can Be a Reporter's Best Friend." Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, December 5, 1986, p. A-14.
  6. ^ Thomas Southwick. "O'Neill's Role as House Speaker." Nashua (NH) Telegraph, January 3, 1977, p. 14.
  7. ^ a b Coleman, Michael (2013-11-29). "Scholar Pins Congressional Dysfunction Squarely on GOP". Washington Diplomat. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  8. ^ Richey, Warren, "Court Upholds 'Soft Money' Ban", The Christian Science Monitor, 11 December 2003. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  9. ^ a b Ornstein, Norman (10 September 2007). "My Neocon Problem". The New Republic. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Future of American Democracy Foundation website
  11. ^ The Future of American Democracy Series
  12. ^ "Advisory Board". Institute for Law and Politics. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  13. ^ "About Us: Advisory Council". Represent.Us. 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  14. ^ O'Rourke, P. J. "If Elected, I Will Not Serve for Long." (Book review.) The New York Times, 02-14-1999.
  15. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "The Dying Art of Legislating". New York Times. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Ornstein, Norman; et al. (April 22, 2014). "Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 

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