We talked earlier in the week about an impressive op-ed from political scientists Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein – celebrated and respected figures of the Washington establishment – who argued, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”
For Mann and Ornstein, blaming “both sides” for what ails Washington is no longer accurate, and only exacerbates the problems posed by the radicalization of today’s GOP. “When one party moves this far from the mainstream,” they argued, “it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
The thesis comes from a new book from Mann and Ornstein, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, and nearly as interesting as their op-ed was a review of their book from the Washington Post’s Robert Kaiser (via Kevin Drum).
Today’s Republican Party has little in common even with Ronald Reagan’s GOP, or with earlier versions that believed in government. Instead it 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 … all but declaring war on the government.” […]
Mann and Ornstein rightly blame the news media for doing a mediocre job covering the most important political story of the last three decades: the transformation of the Republican Party. They are critical of the conventions of mainstream journalism that lead to the evenhandedness they have now abandoned themselves. They see a “reflexive tendency of many in the mainstream press to use false equivalence to explain outcomes,” when Republican obstructionism and Republican rejection of science and basic facts have no Democratic equivalents. It’s much easier to write stories “that convey an impression that the two sides are equally implicated.” […]
And now, as Mann and Ornstein document so vividly, at a time when only good government could help us rediscover our footing as a nation, our Grand Old Party defines itself as the party of anti-government. This is why the title of this book is so good: Our situation really is even worse than it looks.
To be sure, this doesn’t exactly break new ground. But that’s not what I find important about this. Rather, Kaiser, a Post associate editor, like Mann and Ornstein, is a centrist D.C. insider, not an ideologue or a pundit with a specific point of view.
In other words, what we have here is a group of respected, credible, inside-the-beltway establishment types who are now willing to acknowledge what is plainly true: Republican extremism has no modern precedent, and it making governing and policymaking nearly impossible, even during times of crises – despite the demands that Very Serious People agree that “both sides” are always to blame for everything in all instances. Indeed, they’re making these pronouncements in a surprising, matter-of-fact sort of way.
Here’s hoping other respected, credible, inside-the-beltway establishment types feel emboldened to be equally candid about reality.