Lucy McKeon, Salon
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If you thought the debates over the debt ceiling last year – one of the most striking examples of political dysfunction and gridlock in recent memory — were over, think again. Although Republicans agreed to a small raise and to put off discussion of the issue until after the upcoming 2012 elections, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox, “We’ll be doing it all over” in 2013. Clearly, the partisan rupture that’s dividing Washington is not going to heal any time soon, but how did things get so dire to begin with?
When congressional scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein say “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” – the title of their book – they’re being serious (subtitle: “How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism”). Mann, the W. Averell Harriman chair and senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, and Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, began the Congress Project in the midst of the 1978 midterm campaign to track the institution as it evolved. What they’ve found since hasn’t been encouraging.