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It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism Paperback – September 3, 2013
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''The phrase 'essential reading' does not begin to get at the importance of this passionate warning by two of our very best political scientists about our nation's capacity to govern itself. Mann and Ornstein sweep aside the timid conventional wisdom to inform Americans that our problems are even worse than we think they are. It is absolutely vital that this book's findings and message enter the consciousness and consciences of journalists, politicians, and citizens who care about the future of our republic.'' --E. J. Dionne, National Book Award nominee
''This is an exceptionally important and cogent analysis of America's breakdown in self-governance. It is an urgent warning of the consequences of our intolerant politics and governing paralysis and ways to fix it.'' --Chuck Hagel, former US senator and distinguished professor, Georgetown University
''One doesn't have to agree with every one of Mann and Ornstein's proposals to appreciate the extraordinary contribution to improving governance that they make in this important book. We could do no better than to use it as a compelling blueprint for urgently needed reform. If every member of Congress would read just one book on the subject, my wish is that it would be this one.'' --Tom Daschle, former Senate majority leader
''More than any time in my lifetime, the United States is challenged at home and so is our place in the world. When Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein get together to sound a loud alarm about the way our political system is being torn apart, it's time to listen -- and listen hard. Then the tough part -- how do we restore some sense of common purpose, of working together to make our government work? Mann and Ornstein set out ways to rebuild political bridges, beginning right now. We'd better get to work.'' --Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
THOMAS E. MANN is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. He is a former executive director of the American Political Science Association. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
NORMAN J. ORNSTEIN is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the author of a weekly column for Roll Call called ''Congress Inside Out.''He lives in Washington, DC. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
While it is not Doomsday eschatology it cites trends and bumps in the road which could derail the train of State if we don't re-write some rules and pay better attention to what happens inside the Beltway. It takes a pretty stern look at campaign contributions and PACs, a long-overdue look, in my opinion.
“It’s Even Worse Than It Looks" is an excellent book that clarifies clearly the source of dysfunctional politics in America and what will it take to change it. Most books do a very good job of describing what ills our political system but very few excel at providing sensible recommendations like this book does. The astute analysis provides recommendations that go from the practical to a political utopia. This first-rate 274-page book includes the following seven chapters: 1. The New Politics of Hostage Taking, 2. The Seeds of Dysfunction, 3. Beyond the Debt Ceiling Fiasco, 4. Bromides to Avoid, 5. Fixing the Party System, 6. Reforming U.S. Political Institutions, and 7. Navigating the Current System.
1. Well-researched and well-written book that is accessible to the masses. The authors provide a credible and well substantiated case for their observations and conclusions.
2. The authors come from opposing political backgrounds that give the book credibility by reaching consensus on what is causing dysfunction in American politics.
3. It’s about getting to what more closely relates to reality than what is perceived to be fair and balanced. “We were told this part of our book was discussed in a number of newsrooms and provided ammunition to journalists often frustrated by the insistence of producers and editors that they give precedence to fairness and balance over reality and truth.”
4. An excellent and logical format. The first part of the book focuses on the problem while the second half on the solution.
5. An excellent Preface that captures the sentiment of this book best captured by the most enduring quote, “The Republican Party has become 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.”
6. An interesting look book at recent political history. The authors do a wonderful job of capturing as accurately as possible the chain of events based on the best information they were able to obtain based on their expertise in political science.
7. Bold conclusions backed by supporting arguments. “Republicans greeted the new president with a unified strategy of opposing, obstructing, discrediting, and nullifying every one of his important initiatives.” “Never before have cosponsors of a major bill conspired to kill their own idea, in an almost Alice-in-Wonderland fashion. Why did they do so? Because President Barack Obama was for it, and its passage might gain him political credit.”
8. The two sources of dysfunction identified. “The first is the serious mismatch between the political parties, which have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, and a governing system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act. Parliamentary-style parties in a separation-of-powers government are a formula for willful obstruction and policy irresolution.” “The second is the fact that, however awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier…”
9. The rise of the “Young Guns” and the politics of uncompromising conservative politics. Many great examples of their influence, “But, as Mike Allen of Politico revealed at the time: A Senate Republican leadership aide e-mails with subject line ‘Gang of Six’: Background guidance: The President killed any chance of its success by 1) Embracing it. 2) Hailing the fact that it increases taxes. 3) Saying it mirrors his own plan.” Excellent stuff!
10. Points that cut to the chase. “Partisan polarization is undeniably the central and most problematic feature of contemporary American politics.”
11. Interesting observations. “Since the late 1970s, Republicans have moved much more sharply in a conservative direction than did Democrats in a liberal direction.”
12. Some mind-blowing facts. “On Memorial Day, 2002, during George W. Bush’s administration, thirteen nominations were pending on the executive calendar. Eight years later, under Obama, the number was 108.”
13. Sensible and fair recommendations, “Bringing the Republican Party back into the mainstream of American politics and policy and return to a more regular, problem-solving orientation for both parties would go a long way toward reducing the dysfunctionality of American politics.”
14. Interesting section on actions to avoid (bromides).
15. Three avenues of electoral reform. “The first is to moderate politics by expanding the electorate. The second is to reduce the presumed bias against moderate voters and candidates by altering how votes in the election are converted into seats in government. The third avenue of electoral reform seeks to break the polarizing dynamic of the parties through changes in campaign fund-raising and spending rules and practices.”
16. Interesting suggestions that resonate. “A better and stronger reform would be to require forty-one votes to continue the debate, not sixty votes to end the debate, putting the burden squarely on the minority where it belongs.”
17. The need to restore public shame, agreed. “The country needs the remaining (if dwindling) opinion leaders from institutions like the military, churches, universities, foundations, business, the media, and public life to outspokenly denounce those who profit from bombast and lies and to denounce equally the television and radio networks and the print outlets that give them airtime and web and print space, with the legitimacy that flows from them.”
18. The politics of dysfunction reaches the absurd. “In the debate over health reform, some ideas that had originally come from Republicans and conservatives were trashed simply because Obama and Democrats had embraced them.”
19. Includes an afterword that addresses the election of 2012 and its aftermath.
20. Links to notes.
1. The main message is repeated almost to a fault but you won’t leave with any doubts with what the authors are espousing here.
2. Failed to explain in detail how Parliamentary Politics works. I can reach conclusions based on context but the suggestion merited a separate appendix. It would have kept it from affecting the excellent flow of the book.
3. To my surprise the authors did not address the religious right aspect of the extreme right.
4. No formal bibliography.
In summary, this turned out to be one of my favorite political books of the year. It covers the subject of dysfunction in the government with mastery and it does so in a succinct and lucid fashion. I commend the authors for providing the public with a much needed book on such a divisive topic and for giving it the realistic treatment that it demanded. The authors provided many good practical suggestions; excellent work gentlemen. I highly recommend it!
Further suggestions: "When the Tea Party Came to Town: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives' Most Combative, Dysfunctional, and Infuriating Term in Modern History" by Robert Draper, “Rule and Ruin” by Geoffrey Kabaservice, “That’s Not What They Meant!” by Michael Austin, "The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America--and What We Can Do to Stop It" and "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It)" by Thom Hartmann, “The Republican Brain” by Chris Mooney, “American Fascists” by Chris Hedges, “Blowing Smoke” by Michael Wolraich, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" by Robert B. Reich, “Act of Congress” by Robert G. Kaiser, "War on the Middle Class" by Lou Dobbs, and "Winner-Take-All Politics" by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson.