The ultimate asymmetry story

I got an email from a friend (and reader) yesterday with the subject, “the article you have been waiting for.”  I knew exactly what he was talking about– this fabulous essay by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein about the major sub-theme of this blog– the current partisan asymmetry.  And, just so we’re clear, Mann and Ornstein are no shrill partisans, but highly-respected, long-time scholars of Congress.  Heck, Ornstein works for AEI.  Lots and lots of good stuff in here.  If you read one thing I link to this month, it should probably be this.   Anyway, some of my favorite parts:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

And I have to highlight the following paragraph for special love:

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

And there’s plenty more good stuff:

Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented…

On financial stabilization and economic recovery, on deficits and debt, on climate change and health-care reform, Republicans have been the force behind the widening ideological gaps and the strategic use of partisanship. In the presidential campaign and in Congress, GOP leaders have embraced fanciful policies on taxes and spending, kowtowing to their party’s most strident voices.

And the concluding paragraphs should be pasted up on the wall of every national political reporter:

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.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.

Amen!!  Fabulous essay.  Really– read the whole thing.  And, just because you really can’t show graphs like this too often, I’ll conclude with this:

I feel like I should have this chart laminated on a card to pull out every time one of my students says something like, “well, both parties…”

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to The ultimate asymmetry story

  1. Mike says:

    I went and read the article at the Washington Post, then at another paper when the Post wouldn’t let me read the last page.

    the article states:
    “…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 you go look at the comments at almost any site the article appears, you will see that the “unlikely” part is sadly true. Just more of the same, and pointing out the facts gets you absolutely nowhere. One commenter stated ALL the obstructionism is coming from the Democrats. You just have to shake your head. As stated in a previous comment by me, most people don’t bother to look at their attitudes. The comments on the article just reinforces its point, and are a sad commentary on the health of the political system of the United States.
    And its getting worse.

    The article states:
    “Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer, wrote an anguished diatribe last year about why he was ending his career on the Hill after nearly three decades. “The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe…”

    Here we have a Republican comparing the present Republican party to an apocalyptic Cult, or a crazed European semi fascist state. The crazy part is, he is in many ways correct. There are millions of fundamental Christians who believe that the world will end combined with a radical political system that doesn’t allow dissension. Not to mention the number of people on the right who believe that Obama is deliberately trying to destroy America. To be crazy in the Republican party is normal. To dissent in the Republican Party is to sign your resignation papers.

    Any healthy political system required dissent. Any healthy government system requires dissent. The Republican party, or at least those in power in the party are busy trying remove all dissent from the party and from the government and have been doing so for some time now. So far this decision to idealize the party and government has brought such wonderful things as the Iraq war and the 2008 economic crash. The wars major blunders was the result of group think, as was the economic crash. Everyone thought the same thing, the only important thing was loyalty to the party and to Bush. Talent, ability, intelligence, common sense wasn’t even on the list of requirements. And it cost the US dearly. It is still costing the US dearly.

    Several States fought for stricter mortgage lending rules prior to the collapse of the market. The Bush Whitehouse passed legislation to stop it. As it did when a federal civil servant tried to regulate complex financial derivatives. Important appointments overlooking the war were done entirely on the basis of loyalty. Major war decisions in Iraq were based on political decisions by political appointees, such as the disarming and disbanding of the Iraq army and the removal of all Baathist, which resulted in the inability of the US to maintain law and order, and start of a Baathist insurgency. In two steps the entire ability of Iraq to maintain a functioning government and the rule of law was terminated. The result was a bloodbath.

    The truth in the article is pretty obvious to me, being on the outside looking in. It probably helps that I lean to the left, but don’t really like the terms “liberal” and “right wing”, terms that it seems the entire United States has been reduced to. It seem the United States, or a large part of it has its agenda set by a television station owned by an Australian megalomaniac who will do almost anything to get and maintain power and money, and a fat angry crazy man who spends all his time spouting nonsense over the radio. Glenn Beck was too crazy for most advertizes, but Republicans and right wing nuts flocked to his insane rants like pigeons to bird seed.

    It’s clear to me that the Republican Party has deliberately chosen a path to De-legitimize Obama’s legitimate presidency, and has done everything they can to block everything he does so he doesn’t have any ‘wins’. Its not surprising, they said they were going to do so when he was elected. They did the same to Clinton.

    The republican party will not accept anyone else in power, and they are going to further extremes to prevent anyone from holding government positions and preventing their ascendency to the throne.

    If it’s bad now, how much worse is it going to get?

    I really don’t want to see the US fall apart because of political gridlock and one side going off the rails, like Rome, especially since it is likely to take my country with it. Perhaps that’s why my federal government is desperately trying to expand its number of trading partners. To reduce our dependency on the United States if it goes the way of Rome, for the same reasons.

    Anyone who thinks the United States can’t fall into the hands of crazy apocalyptic cult members, well, in many ways it already has.

  2. Yes and you neglect the dems shoving everything down the repubs throat with no compromise. There was ZERO compromise on Obamacare. He lied to us when he said that he would televise health care negotiations on C Span and then locked out Repubs from the negotiations, met in secret behind closed doors in violation of the Sunshine laws and then insisted on voting on it before anyone had a chance to read it. Oh yea, it is the repubs that are the jerks here. BTW it is grounds for immediate disbarment for an attorney to knowingly have a client sign something that they have not read fully and understand completely. Yea, it is the repubs that are the jerks for saying no to these treasonous acts. It was Obama who threatened to withold active duty military pay and social security checks if the repubs did not cave on increased deficit spending. YOu have swallowed the whold pitcher of Kool Aid

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