The New Politics of Extremism

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The audio posted here is from October 24, when this segment originally aired. An edited version was included in a best-of episode of The Brian Lehrer Show from December 27. 

What are the structural reasons for - and solutions to - the recent budget gridlock in Washington? Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Thomas Mann, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, discuss their recent book It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.


Thomas Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

Comments [32]

@lamerkhav from LI

I shouldn't have forgotten to mention inequitable free trade agreements (Clinton, Bush II) that are stripped of the GOP of their environmental and worker equity components before passage. Read the floor debates on NAFTA and MFN for China. Letting our capitalists earn capital gains rate on investments in the manufacturing structure of foreign nations is just cutting our own throats. We ought to end it.

Dec. 28 2013 12:34 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

@lamerkhav from LI

"...Progressives and Occupiers will purge the Dems as the Tea Party is doing in the GOP"

Dream on. Purging our party before the other side has been demolished is not rational. The slide into middle class doldrums has been occurring over the last fifty years, mostly by killing unions (Reagan), enabling illegal immigrants (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II), killing the public savings function (Reagan and Bush I) and focusing the worker's attention on keeping up with the CPI while GDP has grown two points per year faster than it (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama). What does that mean? It means that incomes double every 16-18 years while GDP doubles every 11-12. How does the pie grow faster than the slices? The rich and tax-enabled are taking more out of the pie first, of course.

I am with you on greater social justice and equitable distribution of the national income, but purging Democrats ain't the way to do it. The Tea Party is largely a label stuck on to KochBros money infused policy aims. They are trying to pull the ladder of success up behind them. (though they themselves may not believe that is what they are attempting to do.)

Dec. 27 2013 11:17 AM
lamerkhav from Long Island

This isn't about GOP. This is about Clinton-Obama Democratic Party that betrayed the FDR coalition, Labor and social justice, sold themselves to the Corporate America and tries to marginalize and replace the GOP in everything but name. I'm by the way an Occupier, but I appreciate the Tea party, that hold their ground and don't report to the Wall Str. After Obama, Progressives and Occupiers will purge the Dems as the Tea Party is doing in the GOP. TWe must send the Dems into deppest political wilderness and do this again and again, until they will get, that the only reason for Libs to hold in power, is to rebalance this capitalist economy with some social justice.

Dec. 27 2013 10:59 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

On re-hearing this, I can only re-affirm the fact that the legislative actions of the GOP members of the House and Senate are fundamentally undemocratic and put the good of their position, their party, their donors over the good of the nation. They see the nation as us and them, and 'us' belongs on top. I see the nation as us and them with no rightful rulers.

The recent shutdown is an example. Most 'wingers' believe that the shutdown was a constitutional exercise of the House's 'power of the purse'. An exercise of their Constitutionally-guaranteed Article I, Sections 7 and 9 authority. I see it as a extra-Constitutional grab for power. A second chance at nullification rather than the Constitutionally defined process for passing and repealing a law. My hope is that some party injured by the recent shutdown sues the GOP leaders and SCOTUS gets a chance to put a rope around this shutdown behavior.

Without a ruling, the practice will become more common.

Dec. 27 2013 10:53 AM

And in case you have not heard, there is only one human race. The Democratic myth of "race" is precisely that, a myth. Perpetuating it makes you a racist. You may pat yourself on the back and claim you are a "good" racist, but you are a racist all the same and your "goodness" is patronizing and self-serving.

The same applies to stereotyping people on the basis of their cultural heritage, national origin, languages spoken, gender, age, religion, sexuality or what not. There are words for these, as well, but "bigot" about covers it, with the same thing to be said about being a "good" bigot.

The party which has consistently tried to pull the "good" racist or bigot trick has been the party of Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun, the one which likes to call itself "Democratic" but is more accurately called the "Racist Demagogic Party of Slavery". It comes nastily to the fore whenever a Populist, a Republican or other non-Democrat suggests removing the Democratic stereotypes from our laws. Then those of us who have never judged people on anything but their deeds, find ourselves accused by the Democrats of all the Democratic sins. I have one thing to say in response to the Democratic Party: "Repent of your sins of racism and bigotry,not only in the past, but now. Stop trying to bribe the people you place in one category to gain their vote. Stop pointing to the effects of your programmatic vote-buying as if that was something of which to be proud. And when you are done, do they only honorable act you can do with your party: dissolve it."

Oct. 25 2013 07:53 PM

In addition to showing how to end the debt crisis, open government and restart the economy, I show in my book, "The Way Out" ( available at ), why the budget process creates the perpetual deadlocks and crises. The pertinent political quotation goes back another century from those cited in this article:

"[M]y people don't like me to log-roll in their business, and vote away pre-emption rights to fellows in other states that never kindle a fire on their own land." -- Congressman Davy Crockett, on the floor (of the U.S. House of Representatives) in 1835.

Oct. 25 2013 07:27 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ Edward -

No, I got the bogeymen categories correct (bogeyman of [not from] the left: Koch Bros; bogeyman of [not from] the right: Soros).

Under any political science formulation, the Democratic Party is far from socialist (which is both laughable and a common rhetorical talking point bandied by American right wingers). Some members of the Democratic Party, but by no means all (Blue Dogs), could be considered social democrats, which means an adherence to and support of capitalism. Social democracy is what is practiced in much of Europe - which we are from in the US - and akin to what is established in Germany and to a lesser extent the UK and Canada. Please find out what a genuine socialist party and government believe and what policies they promulgate.

Your statement - which I never wrote - that I "'*really* think that Soros is against making money?" proves my point. No, Soros, just like all contemporary Democrats and the vast majority of American citizens believe in making money because they support capitalism in some form or another. Where there is a huge difference is most especially tax policy and tax rates as well as regulation. Soros, Buffet and Gates are all strongly capitalist, but also want themselves and other wealthy people to pay more in taxes whether it's on income, capital gains, carried interest, etc.

As for the Dixiecrats, I clearly stated that they "morphed" - meaning that they changed allegiance - from the Democrats to the GOP. Times move on, political parties change, which has happened in the US. I'm not sure that Abraham Lincoln, who lived 150 years ago, and definitely not Bird, would match their current-day party's ideology.

Finally, LBJ the started the social democratic program of Medicare/Medicaid, bolstered SS and public broadcasting, and started the War on Poverty. Clinton wanted to achieve the social democratic goal of universal healthcare. Those two and their day’s Democratic Party were all good "socialists" under your rubric.

Oct. 25 2013 11:44 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

" I *have* heard some people contend that black children 'learn better' from minority teachers."

Which minority?

Pacific Islander?
African American?

Any truth to the claim?

Oct. 25 2013 01:00 AM

@Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Unfortuneately there are black people who now insist that black children can only learn from black teachers. Hello re-segregation."

Never met (or heard) of a person who espoused such a ridiculous idea. I *have* heard some people contend that black children 'learn better' from minority teachers.

One thing we can all agree on is that it is spelled "u-n-f-o-r-t-u-n-a-t-e-l-y". But maybe your version was just a typo.

Oct. 24 2013 03:21 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

> The difference between the two "bogeymen funders" of the left (Koch Bros.) and the right (Soros) are great.

I think you got your left and right mixed up.

> Soros's perspective leads him to fundamentally work against his personal/financial interests (to be taxed more) while the Kochs' lead them to fundamentally work to better their personal/financial interests (to be taxed less/gut most regulations).

You *really* think that Soros is against making money? Soros has a pad on Park Ave. but the Occupy Wallstreet tea partiers never bite the Soros hand that feeds them.

> Also, the Dixiecrats morphed into the current Southernized base of the Republican Party.

Honest Abe was a Republican. Robert kkk Byrd was a Democrat.

Today's democrat party is a socialist party, far from the Democrat party of JFK, LBJ or Clinton.

Oct. 24 2013 03:19 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ Edward -

The difference between the two "bogeymen funders" of the left (Koch Bros.) and the right (Soros) are great. While it's clear that both sets believe in and promote their given ideologies for what they feel is the betterment of the U.S., Soros's perspective leads him to fundamentally work against his personal/financial interests (to be taxed more) while the Kochs' lead them to fundamentally work to better their personal/financial interests (to be taxed less/gut most regulations).

Also, the Dixiecrats morphed into the current Southernized base of the Republican Party.

Oct. 24 2013 12:38 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Anyone who whines about the Koch brothers.

All I'll say is George Soros (moveon).

It was the Democrat DIXIECRATS who were against integration.

LBJ told the DIXIECRATS that segregation was OVER - and enforced integration.

Unfortuneately there are black people who now insist that black children can only learn from black teachers. Hello re-segregation.

Oct. 24 2013 10:55 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

The analysis that we have extremism simply as a result of having extremism is too simplistic. This is very well-financed extremism. It may have been opportunistically taken advantage of, but is it really in the interest of the Koch brothers to shut down the government only because they deeply and philosophically are opposed to the introduction of Romneycare? Are they that really that extremely opposed to Americans getting healthcare (even as they fund public television’s science program Nova?), or is it all about something else to which they direct most of their vast political spending?

It’s the latter, there are business reasons why the Koch’s want and benefit from a dysfunctional, distracted government. More on that can be found here:

Thursday, October 17, 2013
If the Government Shutdown Wasn’t About Obamacare (And It Isn’t), Then It Was About?. . . Ready To Be Hot Under The Collar?

Oct. 24 2013 10:54 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Brian and his guests' speculation on Americans, who happen to be Asian reason's for voting democratic - was beyond condescending.

Oct. 24 2013 10:29 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Sheldon

Today's democratic party is made of neo-Bolsheviks whose great-grandparents barely escaped from Czarist Russia. But ask the Russians who came here more recently after 70 years of Communist rule and see what they think.

Oct. 24 2013 10:28 AM
AA - Manhattan

Brian can make unthinking statements... Those times at best he might appear flippant.

His speculation in this segment about Asian-American political tendencies was so awful that there's no way I'm donating to WNYC.

Oct. 24 2013 10:25 AM

Do you ever tire of having the same single minded tea party bashing chat with your like minded buddies?

Oct. 24 2013 10:18 AM
Robert from NYC

Stop deceiving yourselves into thinking that once Latinos are "accepted by" and welcomed into the republican party many, and maybe most, already hold republican values, conservative values, and they will be more than happy to join the party and move to the right. It really won't be a move to the right, rather a welcoming home to where they belong. Once they "make it" and that's what it is, "making it" as we all did, the comfort afforded by conservative "values" is very tempting and, well just that, a comfort to settle into.

Oct. 24 2013 10:18 AM
MIKE from manhattan

The extremism coming out of the south, out of Texas, out of the Tea Party, is nothing new in America. We have a history of strong opposition to change (abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights, gay marriage). Even as a progressive liberal, I accept that the country is changing very quickly now. We should therefor expect a generation of push-back. Progressives have to play the long game, drip feeding change to a country that is nostalgic for the previous generation's way of life.

Oct. 24 2013 10:18 AM
Amy from Manhattan

It seems to me that any measure that makes it more difficult for women who changed their names when they got married could backfire: women who don't are more likely to be feminists & vote accordingly.

Oct. 24 2013 10:17 AM

Asians voted democrat because Republicans have the reputation of being anti-science.

Oct. 24 2013 10:16 AM
Janet from NYC

Isn't the strength and persistence of the Tea Party's agenda due, in large part, to the corporate financial and organizational forces which are driving them? The Koch brothers (and corporate giants) have enormous power in our government, especially since the Citizens' United Decision.

Oct. 24 2013 10:15 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

JG, Comparing sorry democrats with ruthless Bolshevism? Not sure who should be offended more.

Jg, go have a cup of coffee. you clearly need it.

Oct. 24 2013 10:14 AM
Syd UWS from NYC

Come on, Brian. Another ridiculous guest!! He's actually suggesting that the entire faction of Americans who call for less spending and thus fight against Obamacare consider our president to be a "Nigerian Muslim." It's just extremely inaccurate reporting. And Obamacare was not passed with support from both parties so it's not even fair to suggest that. AND to compare current Republicans to those who opposed civil rights in the South is just awful. What is the point of this!? Clearly your guest is the radical that is the problem in our country.

Oct. 24 2013 10:14 AM
sp from nyc

PLEASE Texas, secede, and take Missippi and Alabama with you.

Oct. 24 2013 10:12 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

There should be constitutional amendments: limiting the terms, members of congress can serve.

Take the power from congress, in drawing their own voting districts.

Oct. 24 2013 10:09 AM
Joyce from NYC

This is really annoying.

I see myself as a Kennedy (JFK) liberal.

My parents worked in the New Deal.

Staring with Johnson’s War on Poverty, there has been a radical explosion of government. Sorry, it is simply true. One might think it is good, but it is true.

And it is still growing, as in ObamaCare. Again, one might think it is good, but it is true.


Ok, the guests are LIBERALS. We get it. But I am put off by being labeled as an extremist.

Oct. 24 2013 10:08 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Democratic Left now says it wants "compromise," but only as long as those "compromises" lead to full implementation of their socialist agenda. Just as some Palestinians want "compromise" but only as long as it leads to the end of the Jewish state.

The Left will never compromise on their determination to implement their wildly "egalitarian" agenda as did the Bolsheviks wouldn't in Russia in 1917.

Oct. 24 2013 10:08 AM
John A

I haven't been able to touch (vote for) the republican party since 1996. Good luck fixing yourselves. That's more like 5 strikes, you're out.

Oct. 24 2013 10:08 AM

Thanks for having Ornstein & Mann on. Their well-known books and commentaries are great conversation starters & known in DC for their fact-based analysis.

Oct. 24 2013 10:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Who are the extremists? When I was a kid there was no right to abortion, there was no divorce except in the case of adultery, there was no gay marriage, and doctors were capitalists.
Then they build affordable housing called "projects." That was supposed to solve the cramped housing conditions of the poor.
And yes, I fully supported equal rights for Blacks and women and for homosexuals. And those causes were fully just.
But then came "no fault" divorce, Rowe vs. Wade and the right to abortion, the destruction of father's rights, and now redefinition of marriage which permits gay marriage and gay adoptions as well.
So the question is, who are the extremists?

Oct. 24 2013 09:46 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

From the Politically Incorrect, Too section of my book Ornamentally Incorrect. I posted this once before. Unfortunately, I need to again.

Militant Immoderate

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
— Senator Barry Goldwater, acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, San Francisco, July 16, 1964.

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”
— Republican Michigan Governor George Romney in a letter to Barry Goldwater explaining why he did not endorse him, December 21, 1964.

Copyright © 2013 Joseph Mirsky

Oct. 24 2013 09:04 AM

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