Book Review: It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Mann and Ornstein

27 May

In their book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, Mann and Ornstein (2012) bring to fore the argument that the adversarial relationship between Democrats and Republicans is inhibiting the government’s efforts to fulfill its responsibilities. Whereas the Democrats appear to be more willing to adopt a bipartisan relationship with the Republicans, the latter seem to adopt a contentious approach. The incapacitation of the government’s efforts stems from two sources: the antagonistic nature of the two parties (akin to parliamentary parties) and the non-compromising and/or combative nature of the Republican Party.

The antagonistic relationship between the Republicans and Democrats is similar to that seen in parliamentary parties. In a parliamentary setup, the majority enacts its policies without inhibition. In America’s constitutional system, separation of power rarely gives the majority room to work without checks and balances. In my opinion, whereas the opposition is meant to ensure that the government works effectively; Republicans have used this advantage to bring about a dysfunctional aspect in American Politics.

I am concerned about rivalry between the two parties because of the dysfunction it has caused (in government’s effort to discharge essential services to American citizens). This is evident in many cases where useful policies could not be enacted because of the two parties’ bitter rivalry. For instance, Republicans were in support of Conrad-Gregg’s proposal to deal with the debt crisis. However, in an unprecedented move, cosponsors Mitch McConnell and John McCain went against it for the reason that President Obama was also in support of it. This shows that the Republicans are more concerned with political triumph as opposed to alleviating the problems American citizens face.

Another area I am concerned with is the hard stance Republicans seem to take. Although it might help them solidify party policies, it is detrimental when it comes to matters where a compromise is required. In contrast, I see Democrats as more compromising – for the benefit of American citizens. In various occasions, negotiations between the two parties have stalled due to Republicans’ solid stance. For instance, the bill to extend unemployment benefits passed 98 to 0 but took a month to go through as Republicans gave two filibusters along the adoption process. Another good demonstration of this is when Eric Cantor called for cuts in other areas before he could give the go ahead for Hurricane Irene funding. This is echoed in Mann and Ornstein (2012, p. 103) apt description that the Republican Party is “an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”..

As Mann and Ornstein (2012) outline, the situation can be rectified and/or improved in various ways. These include: introduction of a third party (or independent) presidential candidate, constitutional amendment to the budget and making registration and voting easier for the masses – such as moving the voting day from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday.


Mann, T. E. and Ornstein, J. N. (2012). “It’s even worse than it looks: How the American constitutional system collided with the new politics of extremism”. New York: Basic Books

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Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Book Review


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