Editor’s Note: Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Thomas E. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They are co-authors of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” On April 26, 2013, Mann and Ornstein discussed why Congress is failing the American people in a Moyers & Company video interview:
Veteran Congress-watchers Thomas Mann and Norman J. Ornstein spoke with Bill Moyers about the Senate’s failure to make progress on gun control in April despite 90% of the American public supporting background checks. Though leadership is contextual and there have been historically dysfunctional legislatures, today’s extreme political polarization is unique and the American people are those affected the most by partisan polarization.
In the interview, Thomas Mann explains that “sadly, divided party government, which we have because of the Republican House, in a time of extreme partisan polarization, is a formula for inaction and absolutist opposition politics, not for problem solving. It wasn’t that long ago when you could actually get something done under divided government.”
How do Mann and Ornstein reply when Bill Moyers asks who wins and who loses when we have this deadlock and dysfunction?
Norman J. Ornstein: Well first of all the public and future generations really do lose. We have real problems, short and long term, in the country…
Thomas Mann: …We’ve been living through, now, years of stagnant wages, of high unemployment, of growing economic inequality. So the work of our legislature, our government, makes a big difference. And right now those issues are not being addressed in any substantial way because of the dysfunctional politics and because the Republican party has drifted so far from the mainstream of our politics.
Sentiment inside the Beltway has turned sharply against China. There are many issues where the two parties sound more or less the same. Trump and others in the administration seem heavily invested in a ‘get very tough with China’ stance. It’s possible that some Democrats might argue that a decoupling strategy borders on lunacy. But if Trump believes this will play well with his core constituencies as his reelection campaign moves into high gear, he will probably decide to stick with it, if the costs and the collateral damage seem manageable. But that’s a very big if, especially if the downsides of a protracted trade war for both American consumers and for American firms become increasingly apparent.