Acrimony and hyperpartisanship have seeped into every part of the political process. Congress is deadlocked, and its approval ratings are at record lows. America’s two main political parties have given up their traditions of compromise, endangering our very system of constitutional democracy. And one of these parties has taken on the role of insurgent outlier; the Republicans have become ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise, and ardently opposed to the established social and economic policy regime.
Here, congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein identify two overriding problems that have led Congress—and the United States—to the brink of institutional collapse. The first is the serious mismatch between our political parties, which have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, with a governance system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act. Second, while both parties participate in tribal warfare, both sides are not equally culpable. The political system faces what the authors call "asymmetric polarization", with the Republican Party implacably refusing to allow anything that might help the Democrats politically, no matter the cost.
With dysfunction rooted in long-term political trends, a coarsened political culture, and a new partisan media, the authors conclude that there is no silver bullet that can solve everything. But they offer a panoply of useful ideas and reforms, endorsing some solutions, like greater public participation and institutional restructuring of the House and Senate, while debunking others, like independent or third-party candidates. Above all, they call on the media as well as the public at large to focus on the true causes of dysfunction rather than just throwing the bums out every election cycle. Until voters learn to act strategically to reward problem solving and punish obstruction, American democracy will remain in serious danger.
©2012 Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"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)
"It is encouraging to see two longtime Washington wise men—Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, sensible, nonpartisan scholars and impeccably credentialed authors of good advice that no one ever follows—come out with a full-blown polemic against the Republicans who have steered Congress off a cliff." (The New York Times)
"Reading this book is a little like quaffing a double espresso on an empty stomach—it’s a jolt. For this reader it was a welcome jolt…. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have been Washington fixtures for three decades. They are two of the brightest, best informed, and most scholarly students of our politics…. [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." (The Washington Post)
The book gave a good, reasoned explanation for the gridlock in Washington. It did take a specific position towards the GOP, but it did not appear to be a polemic: the position taken truly seemed to be the result of research and not an emotional tirade.
While the explanation of the historical background and the description of the specific tolls used to create the current tension between Congress and the Presidency clarified a lot for me, I still wound up feeling a bit hopeless about the situation. My reason for saying so was that the authors' proposals for dealing with the situation while well presented and logically pleasing in many respects, would appear to me to have a snowball's chance in hell of ever being put in place - an admission the authors often made themselves.
I might - depending on the book. I noticed some mispronunciations of proper names and perhaps less-than-commonly-used words, but maybe that is the director or editor's problem more than Mr. Hughes.
It was a very thought provoking listen and inspired some interesting discussion around he house.
It was very good to hear a book written by a bipartisan pair. It kept my attention and I wanted to continue listening until each chapter was complete.
I liked that is was timely - I had seen the authors on a talk show and saw the topic as one that was current. It scared me to think that it was worse that it looked. They seemed to be people who, at one time, were from either side of the aisle and now were on the same side of the issue. That is truly what drew me to the book. How did we get here? How can we see our way out of the mess? Or really - CAN we see our way out.
That the GOP has fractured and is having a hard time recognizing their own party at times. It is interesting that the Speaker has been unable to get things done because the "Young Guns" have tied his hands; so many things being done contrarily are done for the sole purpose of keeping President Obama a one term President not for the good of a country.
This was an excellent book.
If the authors were really even-handed in their descriptions of problems, examples and solutions.
Nothing written by these guys.
The claim that it was non-partisan. That is a lie.
This book pretends to be an objective look at what is wrong with the political system in the U.S. It then proceeds to blame every problem on conservatives, especially Republican conservatives. In the authors' view, anything that impedes the leftist agenda of President Obama and the leftists he represents is obstructionist, and what we need to do to remedy the problem of "ineffective government" is to roll over and acquiesce to all of the wasteful, inefficient social programs, profligate spending and government control of every aspect of our lives. Every 50 pages or so, the authors state, "the Democrats are not free of blame, but...." I would challenge any reader to post a quote from this book that states any opposing view other than "we cannot move forward because of the Republicans." Sorry if this review is so political - I wouldn't have posted it if the description on Audible didn't claim that it was bi-partisan. If you follow objective political analysis, skip this one. It is also moot following the 2016 Presidential election.
This was an eye opening book for someone like me, who is not a scholar of the American political process but knows something is wrong. I mean seriously, when 7 out of 10 voters are unhappy with the two choices that we ended up with for the 2016 election, there is something wrong with the process that got them there. This book was interesting to me, as it clarified some issues that I didn't know a lot about - for example, I understand now why a balanced budget may not really be what we want. I also never heard before about the secret blocks of bills and nominations in the Senate. I had no clue that Senators can anonymously block things out of fear of reprisals if their identity and actions were known. My feeling is that if you can't or don't want to say something publicly and identify yourself then you shouldn't do it. If a Senator wants to block something, then speak up and tell the electorate why you did that and don't hide behind secrecy rules. I was astounded that the creators of a certain bill turned around and opposed the bill simply because President Obama was supportive of it.
I like that the authors admit that it will take a lot to fix the system and that they aren't sure it can be done completely, yet they also provide suggestions that may or may not work. But, they are ideas for something different, and at this point anything that moves our country back to the direction of meaningful debate and dialogue, as well as responsiveness to the public, is better than this era of petty partisan politics where self-interest reigns supreme.
I learned a lot from listening to this book but it also left me with the feeling that most of my assumptions were wrong. The author did not provide compelling alternatives in the face of legislative paralysis. The book was good but not great.
I think anyone who wants to hear the Democratic view of the current state of things should listen to this.
The writers tend to be a bit biased. They point out how party politics dominates Republican decisions yet seem to gloss over how Democrats are guilty of the same. However, the description of the book made it clear that this was coming from a Democratic party perspective and never pretended to be objective so I can't fault them for it. As long as you are aware of the bias intrinsic to the book I think it conveys some good information as to how the Republicans seem to operate. Just keep in mind that Republicans assuredly have a different view of their own motives as well as the motives of the Democratic party. Both have their rhetoric and try to demonize their opposite.
Nope. He has a clear, soothing voice for this topic. Very easy to listen to.
I would say that it is interesting how it appears that many in the Republican party are willing to let the country crash and burn for the sake of their political party. I have long suspected this on my own, especially when Obama became president for the second term. However, to be given concrete reasons makes the reality of this more alarming.
This book shows just how polarized our country has become. Most Independents tend to be silent but I feel that it is important to voice an opinion. Though I believe that what is said about the Republican party in this book is true, I have also read a conservative-leaning book called A Patriots History of the United States and it was just as effective at demonizing the Democratic party while glorifying the Republican party. Ultimately I think it wise to believe the worst in both parties while being skeptical of their self-proclaimed best. This allows us to be skeptical of our leaders and not allow them to blind us with their attempts at dissimulation.
I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican but have voted for both on numerous occasions. I am simply an American that is looking for constructive ways for the two parties to find common ground, work together, and move us forward as a country. Since calling people racist is all the rage these days, I would like to point out that I am also a minority so that you won’t dismiss what I’m saying as “racial code speak”.
This book assumes that Democrats represent the truth and light and spends the majority of the book using real word examples of misbehavior to demonize Republicans while mostly ignoring the same behavior in Democrats. The book then goes on to explain that Fox news is evil, direct democracy is superior to a representative republic and citizens may have too much liberty for their own good. Sadly, the book never acknowledges the values differences that are the root cause of our highly polarized nation and misses the opportunity to suggest ways to find common ground upon which we can build a stronger America.
If you’re looking for a book to affirm your inner partisan Democrat and offer ways to bring about the 1984 you crave, this is the right book for you. If you’re looking for a book that offers ways to help unite us as a country while preserving your rights, keep looking because this book is NOT it.
This book has some great information as to why our government is disfunctional and how we got to this point. I didnt look at how short the book was which feel the price is steep for such a short book.
He was good reader.
No extreme reaction but it did help with focusing my ideas and thoughts on how politics works today.
This is a worth a read by anyone interested in learning about why our political system is so screwed up. Spolier Alert: one party is more to blame than the other and yes that would be the Republican party.
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