My apologies to all those waiting with bated breath for the opportunity to discuss It’s Even Worse Than It Looks; I’ve been tied up all day with a unplanned but inescapable client project and haven’t had the time to post the more thorough commentary I’d envisioned. That said, I don’t want to make people wait too long so here’s a short kick-off to get things rolling:
I agree with the premise of the book that 1) the parties – particularly the Republicans – are becoming much more “parliamentary” in nature and are those voting in much more rigid blocs. As they demonstrate, the most conservative Democrat is now more liberal than the most liberal Republican; a condition that has seldom (ever?) been the case in the last 150 years. This ideological rigidity is a serious problem for a system that is inherently inefficient and is designed to work best when there is compromise and consensus. It is, in fact, a recipe for the very gridlock we’ve seen over the last three years.
Mann and Ornstein also make the point that this hyper-partisanship is coming at a particularly bad time in our history as there are serious problems at home and abroad that need addressing and that aren’t. It is also a time when some of the other institutions we rely on – the courts and the media in particular – are undergoing changes and stresses of their own that either add to the partisanship fervor or distract them from playing a counterbalancing role.
The solutions the authors propose range from the “not possible” – changing the Constitution, etc. – to the doable but incremental like changing the rules involving filibusters and cloture in the Senate. Contemplating the possible election of a Republican Senate, I’m not wild about losing the ability of the minority to stifle unwelcome legislation by changing the Senate rules, particularly if Romney is elected, but I’m coming to at least consider the notion that anything is better than what we’ve been seeing.
So…what do you think? Any of the analysis strike you as wrongheaded? Any of the solutions seem more desirable or doable than others?
Let the opining commence.