It’s Not Congress That’s Dysfunctional—It’s the Republican Party

by David Nir –

Chart showing growth in House polarization between the parties from 1879-2015

Chart showing the widening ideological gulf between House Republicans and Democrats, thanks to the GOP’s extremism

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann are no partisan hacks: They’re two of the most respected political analysts in Washington, DC. Yet when they published a highly regarded book three years ago blaming congressional dysfunction squarely on the GOP’s radical march to the right, most of the Beltway press just ignored them. “Both parties do it” was and still is the easy refuge of the traditional media, which continues to believe that Democrats are just as responsible for Capitol Hill’s intransigence as Republicans.
Of course, that’s not remotely true, and the stunning collapse of the House GOP leadership has demonstrated that harsh fact yet again. In a compelling new interview, Ornstein and Mann explain better than anyone else how we’ve gotten here, what the state of play really is within the Republican Party, and, perhaps most importantly, why the media’s failure to recognize that yes, it really is the fault of the GOP has played a key role in creating our current mess. Mann is lacerating:

There is no clear path out of our current distemper. The solution, like the diagnosis, must focus on the obvious but seldom acknowledged asymmetry between the parties. The Republican Party must become a conservative governing party once again and accept the assumptions and norms of our Madisonian system. That will likely require more election defeats, more honest reporting by the mainstream press and more recognition by the public that the problem is not “Washington” or “Congress” or “insiders” or politicians in general.
The burden is on the GOP because they are currently the major source of our political dysfunction. No happy talk about bipartisanship can obscure that reality. Unless other voices and movements arise within the Republican Party to change its character and course, our dysfunctional politics will continue.

Ornstein and Mann talk repeatedly about the problem of “asymmetric polarization”: the fact that Republicans have moved so far to the right that they’ve become hostage to their own nihilist extremists, while there’s been no such corresponding shift among Democrats whatsoever. This is well-illustrated in the chart at the top of this post, which uses a widely respected measure of congressional ideology called DW-Nominate to show just how extreme Republicans have become, even as the Democrats stay steady.
Until the media starts reporting on this massive gulf truthfully and accurately, many Americans won’t understand just how radical the GOP has become—and Republican members of Congress themselves won’t grasp what’s happened either.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos