These respected centrists (Ornstein is with the American Enterprise Institute; Mann with the Brookings Institution) have written a terrific piece in the Washington Post that's based on their forthcoming book.
It's clear, truthful, undeniable. One major political party in the United States has gone wacko, and it isn't the Democratic Party.
Below are some of my favorite parts of the essay.
The mention of habitual Republican use of the filibuster, something new in Senate politics, is right-on. Why does the media say "The Democratic proposal failed to pass by a vote of 53-47 in the Senate"? The bill got a freaking majority! It succeeded in passing, except for the idiotic 60-vote filibuster rule.
As Ornstein and Mann note, reporters should say just that. A majority of Senators voted for the bill, but it didn't become law because of Republican obstructionism. Here's more on that subject.
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.
...The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.
...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.
...The GOP’s evolution has become too much for some longtime Republicans. Former senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska called his party “irresponsible” in an interview with the Financial Times in August, at the height of the debt-ceiling battle. “I think the Republican Party is captive to political movements that are very ideological, that are very narrow,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much intolerance as I see today in American politics.”
And 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,” he wrote on the Truthout Web site.
...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.