Over the last few weeks, Benjamin Wittes and John Bellinger both have written on Lawfare about the government shutdown, Tea Party Republicans, and political dysfunction's implications for national security. At Brookings, my own work touches on national security as well as political gridlock---which I discussed during this week's Lawfare podcast, with Brookings congressional scholar Tom Mann and his long-time collaborator, the American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein.
When I am not writing on Lawfare or in law school, I work with Tom and Norm on, among other things, legislative politics. Observers of Congress for over forty years, they have recently co-authored a best-selling book about congressional paralysis. In It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, the pair argue, first, that there is a mismatch between the polarized nature of our two major political parties and our governmental structure: today's partisan politics, they claim, are better suited to parliamentary systems than to our country's constitutional system. Secondly, Mann and Ornstein conclude that the Republican Party has become far more ideologically extreme than its Democratic counterpart---but that journalists and scholars too often brush aside that fact, or inaccurately portray the two parties as equally flawed. (Their thesis is well known to the entire Lawfare-Brookings team, which has offices adjacent to Tom's and has become accustomed to hearing Tom’s booming voice through the walls.)
On Tuesday, as we entered the shutdown's third week, I sat down with Tom and Norm to talk about their book, the shutdown, and the implications of partisan polarization and political dysfunction for national security.