Norman Ornstein

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Norman Ornstein
Democratic Deterioration at Home and Abroad (26792010369) (cropped).jpg
Norman Jay Ornstein

(1948-10-14) October 14, 1948 (age 73)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota (B.A.)
University of Michigan (Ph.D.)
OccupationPolitical scientist, author, scholar
Political partyDemocratic[1]
Spouse(s)Judith L. Harris

Norman Jay Ornstein (/ˈɔːrnstn/; born October 14, 1948) is an American political scientist and an Emeritus 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[2] on October 14, 1948.[3] His father was a traveling salesman, and the family spent much of Norman's childhood in Canada. He was a child prodigy, graduated from high school when he was fourteen and from college when he was eighteen.[4] He received his BA from the University of Minnesota,[5] and subsequently, received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan in 1974.[6] By the mid-1970s, he had become a professor of political science at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and was establishing a reputation as an expert on the United States Congress.[7]

Ornstein studies American politics and is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and many magazines, such as The Atlantic and the National Journal.[8] He wrote a weekly column for Roll Call from 1993 until April 10, 2013, and was 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.[9] Ornstein is a registered Democrat,[1] but considers himself a centrist, and has voted for individuals from both parties.[10]

Ornstein is a member of the advisory board of the Future of American Democracy Foundation,[11] a nonprofit, 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".[12] He also served on the advisory board of the Institute for Law and Politics at the University of Minnesota Law School.[13] 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,[14] where he served as a consultant in the crafting of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

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.[8][16]

Ornstein supports legal recognition of same-sex marriages.[17]

He opposed President Donald Trump.[18] He also criticized the Electoral College, saying that the more presidents are elected without the popular vote, "the more you get the sense that voters don’t have a say in the choice of their leaders".[19]


Ornstein is married to Judith L. Harris, a litigation attorney specializing in regulatory matters. He is a long-time friend of former U.S. Senator and comedian Al Franken.[10] 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.[20]

Ornstein and his wife, as well as their younger son Danny, established the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation in honor of the couple's eldest son, who died in 2015 at age 34 from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.[21][22][23]


External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Ornstein on Debt and Taxes, March 13, 1994, C-SPAN
video icon Panel discussion on The Broken Branch, July 12, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Discussion with Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann on The Broken Branch, April 30, 2007, C-SPAN
video icon Interview with Ornstein and Mann on The Broken Branch, January 27, 2011, C-SPAN
video icon Panel discussion with Ornstein and Mann on It's Even Worse Than It Looks, May 9, 2012, C-SPAN
video icon Washington Journal interview with Ornstein and Mann on It's Even Worse Than It Looks, May 23, 2012, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Ornstein on One Nation After Trump, November 18, 2017, C-SPAN


  1. ^ a b Mann, Thomas E.; Ornstein, Norman J. (December 2, 2017). "How the Republicans Broke Congress". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 3, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "Norm Ornstein". St. Louis Park Historical Society. 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "Ornstein, Norman J." Name Authority File. Library of Congress. April 2, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  4. ^ Steven Waldman. "The King of Quotes." Washington Monthly, December 1986, p. 35.
  5. ^ "Pitt's Honors College to Host Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein". University of Pittsburgh. November 17, 2008. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  6. ^ Steve Goldberg. "Dr. Quote Can Be a Reporter's Best Friend." Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, December 5, 1986, p. A-14.
  7. ^ Thomas Southwick. "O'Neill's Role as House Speaker." Nashua (NH) Telegraph, January 3, 1977, p. 14.
  8. ^ a b Coleman, Michael (November 29, 2013). "Scholar Pins Congressional Dysfunction Squarely on GOP". Washington Diplomat. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  9. ^ Richey, Warren (December 11, 2003). "Court Upholds 'Soft Money' Ban". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Ornstein, Norman (September 10, 2007). "My Neocon Problem". The New Republic. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  11. ^ Future of American Democracy Foundation website
  12. ^ The Future of American Democracy Series
  13. ^ "Advisory Board". Institute for Law and Politics. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  14. ^ "About Us: Advisory Council". Represent.Us. 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
  15. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 26 November 2012. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  16. ^ "The Dying Art of Legislating". The New York Times. March 1, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 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.
  18. ^ Brewer, Katherine (October 12, 2017). "What Happens After Trump?". WBUR. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  19. ^ Astor, Maggie (6 November 2020). "The Electoral College Is Close. The Popular Vote Isn't". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  20. ^ O'Rourke, P. J. (February 14, 1999). "If Elected, I Will Not Serve for Long (Book review)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation". MHO Foundation. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  22. ^ Norman J. Ornstein, How to Help Save the Mentally Ill From Themselves, New York Times (November 17, 2015).
  23. ^ Rosa Caragena, Deeply Personal Story Behind the PBS Documentary "The Definition of Insanity": Norm Ornstein and Judy Harris have their own tragic connection to mental illness., Washingtonian (April 30, 2020).

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