It's Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

91%

9 Critic Reviews

But now, they say, Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, and they aren't hesitating to point a finger at who they think is to blame.
-NPR

Synopsis

 

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. In It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, 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, and a governing 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” reform 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. 

 

 

About Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

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Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He is a former executive director of the American Political Science Association. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of a weekly column for Roll Call, called “Congress Inside Out.” He lives in Washington, D.C. Both are fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They are coauthors of The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.
 
Published May 1, 2012 by Basic Books. 240 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for It's Even Worse Than It Looks
All: 9 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by MICHAEL CROWLEY on Jul 20 2012

The debt vote showdown is the focal point of “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” Robert Draper’s engaging and often funny chronicle of the year in the House of Representatives...

Read Full Review of It's Even Worse Than It Looks | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by NPR Staff on Apr 30 2012

But now, they say, Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, and they aren't hesitating to point a finger at who they think is to blame.

Read Full Review of It's Even Worse Than It Looks | See more reviews from NPR

Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by LORI STURDEVANT on Jun 30 2012

The book's innards offered reassurance...still holds to a thoroughly Minnesota notion: If more people voted and helped choose candidates, this state and nation would be better governed.

Read Full Review of It's Even Worse Than It Looks | See more reviews from Star Tribune

The Economist

Excellent
Reviewed by The Economist. on Apr 28 2012

WHAT happens to a two-party political system when one party goes mad? That is the question posed in a powerful and angry new book by two scholars at two respected think-tanks...

Read Full Review of It's Even Worse Than It Looks | See more reviews from The Economist

The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Robert Kaiser on Apr 30 2012

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.

Read Full Review of It's Even Worse Than It Looks

Slate

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Hasen on May 09 2012

Mann and Ornstein have done a great public service in opening a dialogue on how to fix the mismatch between our political and constitutional systems of government.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Jaime Weinman on Jun 04 2012

...this book is also something of a conversion narrative: the story of two centrist pundits who have decided that the centre no longer holds.

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The New Yorker

Excellent
Reviewed by HENDRIK HERTZBERG on May 30 2012

“It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” is a cogent, concise, and, in its think-tanky way, passionate book.

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The Weekly Standard

Below average
Reviewed by JAY COST on Jun 11 2012

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks is overwrought with hyperbole and too filled with Democratic talking points to offer much guidance.

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Crystal Greer 5 Sep 2013

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