The title of Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein's new book aptly sums up the atmosphere in Washington: "It's Even Worse Than it Looks."
Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke with Alex today and argued that the Republican party is largely to blame for the gridlock gripping our nation's capital. It's important to note that neither Brookings nor AEI can be described as liberal, which may be why some conservative columnists aren't too happy with Mann and Ornstein’s case.
Mann and Ornstein trace the problems to a number of things, including Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich, who "convinced Republicans to act like a parliamentary minority; even in areas where some GOP members might have agreed with Democrats or wanted to bargain with them, they united in opposition, daring the majority to find votes only from within their own ranks."
The result, they argue, is a Republican party that has moved farther to the right and has become less willing to compromise. According to the National Journal, conservative Democrats in Congress are now more liberal than the most liberal Republicans. Mann and Ornstein conclude, "this is another way of saying that the degree of overlap between the parties in Congress is zero."
For a good graphical representation of how polarized the parties are, check out these charts created by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal.
So, is there any hope partisanship can give way to cooperation? Mann and Ornstein say yes, but don't count on it happening in the next election cycle. Brace yourself for more gridlock.