In an essay appearing in The Washington Post and adapted from their new book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” which will be available next week, Thomas E Mann, a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, and Norman J Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, lend their scholarly weight to what the likes of New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, and the contributors to this blog (among others) have been saying for a long time now: That the GOP is the primary source of the governmental and policy paralysis in this country, and that it is unlike anything the country has seen in the modern era. In other words it is not “politics as usual”.
Their views carry considerable weight because they are long time, highly respected scholars on and analysts of congress, politics, government policy, and elections, and their words cannot easily be dismissed as merely partisan.
Mann and Ornstein make it clear that the GOP’s extremism has no equivalent on the left, and contrast the willingness of Democrats in Congress to work with George W. Bush on No Child Left Behind, the war on al-Qaida, and even tax cuts (misguided and shameful though many of us regard that particular support) as well as other issues, with the GOP’s steadfast refusal to cooperate with Obama on anything of great import. The zealotry of the GOP driven by an even more fanatical base was on display in the willingness of many in the House to see America default on its debt, a sure sign to the world of a totally dysfunctional government.
Mann and Ornstein rightly take the mainstream media to task for confusing balance on this issue with failing to recognize and convey truth and reality to the public:
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.
That may be more generous than the media deserves. Is it really confusion or cowardice?
And the failure of the American electorate to recognize and rise up to reject the GOP’s current extremism at the polls (indeed shockingly to embrace it in the 2010 mid-terms) is also highlighted:
If our democracy is to regain its health and vitality, the culture and ideological center of the Republican Party must change. In the short run, without a massive (and unlikely) across-the-board rejection of the GOP at the polls, that will not happen. If anything, Washington’s ideological divide will probably grow after the 2012 elections.
The question remains: What is it going to take for the American people and mainstream media to see what’s in front of their nose?