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Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein: It's even worse than it looks

November 27, 2012 1:24:20
Kaltura Video

Thomas Mann (MA '68, PhD '77) & Norman Ornstein (PhD '74) will discuss their book, the New York Times bestseller, "It's Even Worse than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism." November, 2012.


>> Hello everybody and good afternoon.  I'm Susan Collins for Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford's School of Public Policy and I'm delighted to see all of you with us this afternoon.  I'm on behalf of the Ford's School community, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all here for another in our series of distinguished lectures, the Policy Talks at the Ford School.  We are particularly honored today to have two very distinguished graduates of the University of Michigan, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein.  Norm Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the weekly columnist at Roll Call.  Tom Mann is a W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution.  And I must say that during my own days at Brookings, Tom was a very special colleague and it is a real pleasure to be able to be hosting him this afternoon.  Well, separately and together, Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein have for decades produced ground breaking work on the United States Congress on elections and on the American political landscape.  They've built a rock solid perspective for nonpartisan analysis and for collaborating across different ideological perspectives.  In a very special edition of the magazine, Foreign Policy magazine that actually just hit the newsstands today and I suspect that they know about this but perhaps they don't.  They are among the 100 foreign policy leaders and they ranked in at number 46 jointly and so, particularly--
I want you to congratulate them on that.  Well their latest book is The New York Times bestseller " It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism."  And in it, Mann and Ornstein explore some of the most critical issues that face our country, namely the hyper partisanship that we have all been reading about and so many of us have had great concerns that seems to continue on and on.  The gridlock that's so and thoroughly disenchants so many and so much of the American public with Congress and with so many of the important policy issued of today that seemed to be making very little headway.  Well today, we'll hear their thoughts about both the origin of the dysfunction and potential solutions, some of which are very much in the hands of voters and all of us.  And in particular, I prodded them to suggest how policy school and policy students might make some in rows in that agenda.  Well, at the Ford School, we're very proud of the reputation that our name sake, President Gerald R. Ford had for working across the isle.  And in their book, they refer to President Ford as among the group of Republican leaders who were and I quote, pragmatic institutional figures who found ways to work within the system and focused on solving problems.  Well that's a model that our faculty and our students really do take very seriously and so much of what we do and so we couldn't be more proud today to be hosting this conversation with experts on that very important set of topics.  Tom and Norm had been very generous with their time, they've already met a number of our undergraduates and our faculty as well as delivering their public address today.  And they've graciously agreed to take questions and so, you should have received if you were interested a note card when you came in today.  Around 4:45, our staff will be coming down the isles to pick up your questions and a member of faculty, Professor Ann Lin as well as two of our graduates students Claire Hutchinson and Kelvin Vuong will be selecting questions and then posing at the end of our session today to both Tom and Norm.  And so with that, it is my honor and great pleasure to welcome back to the University of Michigan and to the Ford School, our distinguished speaker today.
[ Applause ]
>> Thanks so much Susan.  For both of us, it's thrilled to be back in Ann Arbor.  Many of our friends and mentors and some of our former employees now back as graduates students are here and we're delighted to be associated with Susan and with the Ford School.  I actually got to know Gerry Ford much better after he was out of government.  Every year, AEI with which I am identified would hold a world forum in Beaver Creek Colorado in which Present Ford would preside.  And so every year, I'd spend 3 or 4 days together with him and it was remarkable to watch him well up into his 80's.  I think even more informed and lucid than when he had been in government talking to everybody and then you could see all the qualities that made him a role model really for public service.  Thank you for mentioning the 100 global leaders at foreign policy that's the good news, the bad news is that Dick and Liz Cheney ended up ahead of us.  [Laughter]  Don't ask me how.  And for mentioning the book which by the way makes a great holiday gift as we enter the holiday season.  The timing is good.  We are three weeks after the election.  We've actually had some other seminal events in between.  Just last week we had the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, and I called up Big Bird, and congratulated him.  He said it was big day but no, we are near as big as November the 6th.  He had suffered a near death experience going into the election.  There is other good news.  As of today, Florida has finished counting its votes.  [Laughter]  And the interestingly, this morning in attic, they found 586 votes for Al Gore.  [Laughter]  Little too late.  The election of course came as a shock to a number of people including of course Mitt Romney himself, Dick Morris, and Karl Rove.  I actually saw Karl two days after the election in Erie, Pennsylvania where I followed the amount of platform and commiserated with him, but I said there is some good news to immerge out of this.  I've investigated it, it turns out that depression is fully covered under Obama care.  [Laughter]  So, he will be okay.  Of course, he got it all wrong as did Romney's own pollsters and Dick Morris and many others.  But, you know, we can't vote too much, the fact is all of us who get involved in public commentary and many of us an academia make predictions.  And we aren't always right, and I told Karl that I'd actually--I had a confession to make, I'd been wrong on the vice presidential choice for Mitt Romney.  I did not pick Paul Ryan, I was confident in believing that Romney would--would pick Newt Gingrich as his running mate, I thought you got the perfect balance ticket of a Mormon and polygamous.  [Laughter]  And I was wrong.  So, I was wrong about the marijuana initiatives as well, I predicted that they would fail.  I figured though that on Wednesday after the election in Colorado and Washington, large numbers of people would wake up and say, "Hey dude, was that election thing like yesterday?"  But, it turned out they actually did show up at the poles.  We're happy to be here on a beautiful sunny, yet crisp, we've been doing a lot of traveling.  Actually, I came just a couple of days ago from Los Angeles where it was 82 and foggy just like Clint Eastwood.  [Laughter]  And of course as we think back through the sweep of the last year, the highlights of the campaign, Clint Eastwood's appearance of the Republican Convention in Tampa was one of them, the Tampa Convention, of course dominated by the weather, was hurricane Isaac, the weather threats were so severe that Donald Trump cancelled his Bollywood splash in appearance of the convention, nobody every talks about the good things that can come with hurricanes.  But my favorite moment at the convention was when I saw reporter interviewing Herman Cain about the weather and ask if he remembered Katrina, and he said, "I don't know her, I've never met her, there's no proof anywhere."  [Laughter]  There was some overreaction to the threat of the weather, I thought it was a bit much when I saw Rick Santorum at the Tampa zoo gathering up to of every creature, I thought that was maybe a little bit overboard.  From there, I went to Charlotte for the Democratic convention.  My highlight there actually was picking up campaign buttons, I like when I go to these things, the buttons, you know, they are really interesting and come collectors items, and I scored unusual button there, it had a big picture of Jenna Jameson on it.  Now, I know nobody here knows Jenna Jameson is, all right, well obviously one person does.  [Laughter]  She is the most successfully porn star in America and she had endorsed Mitt Romney saying, "I'm rich so I'm going to vote for Mitt Romney."  And the button had a big porn stars for Romney.  And I look at the button and I though the Democrats are loosing the porn star vote, this never would have happen under Bill Clinton.  [Laughter]  So, but I got the button.
^M00:10:03 So, there's a lot more material but we have a limited amount of time.  [Laughter]  And I like to start with a little humor because you'll see from both of us, it's all downhill from this point on.  I want to give you just a few highlights of where we are and where we came out on this book, talk a little bit about the structure of our politics now as we look at this election and passed it, and then just touch on where we might go from here, and we will both flesh that out a little bit, and then hopefully we can have some real dialogue.  Let me just start by saying this was not an easy book in many ways for us to write.  We have been in Washington now, Tom and I left Ann Arbor in the fall of 1969, both of us to go to Washington and spend a year as Congressional fellows working in Congress.  And basically, I came back for a year to finish my dissertation, but we've been immersed in the politics of Washington, and the policy making processes from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for 43 plus years now.  And we've never seen it this dysfunctional, but we've also over those years and over both the friendship and then a partnership through a whole series of projects, both studying the institutions and trying to improve them in the processes, develop reputations of being straightforward, not partisan, not ideological, we have no particular ax to grind, and we've build relationships across the board for calling it and as we saw it often pointing fingers across the board or individuals wherever they might be in institutions for there failings.  When about a year and half ago, an editor who had been the first editor on our previous book, The Broken Branch came to us and said, how about writing a new book about the way politics are now six year after that previous book.  We thought about it, and thought gee, we got so many other things to do, and then thought it's different now, and we've got something to say.  But it's going to be a different kind of book because it's going to be blogged and it's going to make a lot of enemies.  But we did it because as what we're there for, and it was important and necessary because that dysfunction has become something that is I think a serious threat to the ability of the country both to solve problems and get us out of a mess in the short run, one that just a couple of years ago had as teetering at the edge of the abyss in economic terms and it still leaves us in a position where we're not out of the woods by any stretch.  But also, one where we have not just the short term fiscal issues to deal with, and other short term questions and problems about keeping a society going and the government running but serious medium in long term challenges, demographic and otherwise that'll determine the future of the country and if the political process can't get out of it's dysfunction, it doesn't dominate everything.  But the glib notion that, well if they just gridlock, that's firing because they only do bad things anyhow, they still do things, and sometimes the inaction can be a disaster for the country.  This is not good and it was time for us to use whatever capital we had built and credibility we had built up to blow a few whistles.  We were very deliberate in choosing the title of the book, it's even worst than it looks.  By the way, it makes it great holiday gift, I wasn't sure I've mentioned that.  Because for one thing, it never looks good, it's not like the system was design so that everybody would hold hands and work together in harmony.  It was designed to be contentious, and rambunctious, and difficult.  Because that's how you make policy in a big society with lots of different interest and people who come from radically different places and live very different lifestyles.  Every political system has to deal with a problem that flows from human nature frankly, and that is nobody likes to accept the certainty of short term pain for the promise of some gain or benefit further down the road.  I actually was reflecting on this again a couple of months ago on a Sunday evening as I prepare for my colonoscopy the next day.  [Laughter]  And many of you I'm sure had a similar experience, many times that evening I ask myself and often out loud "Why am I doing this?"  It was not a pleasant experience.  But I was doing it not just because my own gastroenterologist had the authority that I respected to tell me "Do this now, it will be a benefit to you and future generations in your family," but because a whole body of science also told me that and I respected it.  Now we do that with gastroenterologist.  We do it with dentists.  It isn't natural to do it with politicians.  When political figure say "Trust us, this is going to hurt now but it will provide some benefit later on," that's not easily accepted by people.  And the framers knew that even if they didn't know about colonoscopies at that time but try to device a system where you could in this huge society even back then, much smaller geographically than it is now but of course at that time when it would take weeks to travel from New York to Philadelphia.  How are you going to get people to accept these notions in an extended republic?  And they devised a political process that was very different from a parliamentary system.  It was one designed not to have a government that would act, an opposition that would opposed but be unable to block those actions and then elections every 3, 4 or 5 years to hold them accountable, a belief that in this extended republic, that wasn't going to work terribly well.  And so when they created a legislature, they called it a Congress and not a parliament and it wasn't just let's pick a different name for it, it was a whole different idea about how you were going to operate a political process.  Congress comes from the Latin word meaning to come together, parliament from the French word meaning to speak.  The parliamentary system, the parliament is the agent of the government.  In our system, the Congress was supposed to be a place where you can take people from these vastly different areas, rural areas, often so remote that people might literally not see another human being for weeks or months, all the way to incredibly densely packed urban areas far more than anything we have now.  And you would bring them together to deliberate and debate over an extended period of time, face to face so that they could see and even identify with others, put themselves in the shoes of people who came from very different places and begin to understand why they might have different points of view.  And then over time have a genesis where you might if all went well be able to come up with policy ideas that we're reflect at least of broad leadership consensus that you could sell to this disparate group of residence and citizens.  And if not, if you couldn't reach that consensus, you could make a policy where at least those who ended up on the short end would believe that the decisions were legitimate because they'd had ample opportunity to have their say to offer ideas and then they could implement whatever was passed in a legitimate fashion and live to fight another day to get their own ideas ultimately accepted.  Now I go through that long description because the fundamental reality now is that we don't have that system operating, we have a mismatch now.  We have parties that unlike any other time in our lifetimes are behaving not like the parties that developed even if the framers didn't think about parties very early on but are like parliamentary parties.  And that doesn't work in a non-parliamentary system and it doesn't work especially because the culture builds up around the political system.  You accept the decisions made by your own political decision in a culture and entity and system and not necessarily others.  And now, we have this combination of polarization that is ideological and partisan.  That's become tribal in nature which has taken forth in Washington and then metastasize to states and now out to a larger, the public.  That is amplified by a new media which in some ways is back to the future.  We've had partisan media in the 19th century and other times in the past but nothing that comes close to the depth breath immediacy that we have now and then the amplification of social media that make it much more difficult.
^M00:20:16 But when you add in the nature of those parliamentary parties where even if you have separate institutions of government, elected separately, that all have the same party identification, and even if the majority does act together, you got two problems now.  One is the bar has been raised to 60 percent of the Senate on a regular basis, so you need more than a majority which is not like what you'd find in a parliamentary system and the second is if they act, it doesn't give us back that vision of a broad leadership consensus that a public will accept.  In a tribal world, that means that if you act half the system and ultimately perhaps half the country view the actions as illegitimate and then move to delegitimize them and block the implementation.  That's the history of the first two years of the Obama administration.  And on the last two years which is the nightmare which is divided government with parliamentary parties, that brings us the closest to gridlock in real terms that we have seen also in our lifetime at least our adult lifetimes.  And if you combine that with the other reality here which was the difficult part for us in writing this book which is this polarization and the parliamentary nature of our parties is not equal.  It's not symmetric.  It's not that we've had two parties that generally had a lot of admixture and coalesce around the middle moving towards the extremes, it's that if you look at the football field analogy, the familiar one, we've had one party, the Democrats that basically move from when we first came to Washington from around their own 40 or 45 yard line down to around the 25 or 30 and President Obama probably closer to the 40, and the other party is behind this own goal post.  There's been a sharp movement far more on the Republican side and you have a Republican party that not only has become a vehement parliamentary type opposition but also has move from its conservative roots to a radical status.  And we've seen this play out in a whole host of ways.  And it's not a way to run a political system.  Now voters have a hard time determining accountability often in the system like this.  And they've tried through 4 successive elections in a very unusual way.  2006, it was throw the ins out, bring the outs in, a midterm election focused on the George W. Bush administration, Republicans having the House and Senate as well threw them out of the House and Senate a wave election.  2008, very unusually, another wave moving in the same direction, still focusing on Bush., an open presidential contest, the Democrats won it all.  2010, the dramatic sweep back and the Republican victory is almost across the board, although Democrats still retaining the Senate.  And then the oddity in election where voters increasingly unhappy and angry with not just the economy but a political process that can't seem to operate to solve problems giving us the status quo returning everybody at least with some variations in that majority.  But it's not a typical status quo election where they're saying "Things are fine, keep it the way it is."  This was one where as best as we can map it out the clear signal from voters if there was a clear signal was "All right, clean up your damn act, solve some problems."  And you could see that phenomenon even across these tribal divides in the dramatic public reaction to Sandy, the hurricane with the bromance between Barrack Obama and Chris Christie that could make a movie.  I actually think it's a cross between Eye Spy and Laurel and Hardy in a lot of ways.  [Laughter]  But the embrace between the two and it's not easy for the two of them to embrace but the embrace between the two that was an overwhelming public approval.  We have a survey today that shows Chris Christie at 72 percent approval in New Jersey, 21 percent disapproval, a clear sign that moving to solve problems is a direction people want to go in.  However, this election did not lance the boil, alter that fundamental dynamic that has been building for a significant period of time that's brought us this high level of dysfunction.  It hasn't change the larger dynamic of tribal media and the enormous megaphones that exist out there on cable television and talk radio where all the incentives including the financial ones are to drive specially the Republican Party further towards a radical direction and not in a problem solving mode at all, and where the money system careening out of control even before citizens united, we had a problem but now that has become a disaster area combined with a primary system and a caucus system that give amplified weight to extreme elements in the political process that provide additional incentives to move us further or apart in a way from a problem solving mode.  So Tom will clean up this mess and we hope that we have laid the seeds in the election and in the dynamic that lead up to it and we hope we played a small role at least in framing some of that discussion to give us a couple of breakthroughs.  It wouldn't take much to get us back on track economically and otherwise and in fact conditions are there for a real resurgence of the country in the next few years, not one that's going to solve some of the long term employment problems and educational issues and others that we have but that could really move us back in a positive direction but we're nowhere near there yet.  And we are just hopeful that we don't have to write the third book that goes from The Broken Branch to Its Even Worst Than It Looks to Run For Your Lives.  Thanks.
[ Applause ]
>> Susan, thank you so much for your hospitality, you and the Ford School.  Feel converse, it just does my heart so much good to see you out there and to think back to my days, our days as graduate students here.  It's wonderful to look around the room and see many friends.  Many of whom I've already chatted with before we began.  Michigan is a great and beautiful university and I think I can speak for Norm in saying how grateful both of us are for it having given us an opportunity to build very unusual but fascinating and rewarding careers, largely in Washington but with the opportunities like this to travel around.  Now, this past year has been as fascinating and rewarding as any in our long careers and I'd like to talk to you a little bit about why that is so when might have thought given the obvious dysfunction of American politics the almost disdain and discourage man about Americans and looking at our system that this would, you know, this would hardly be the kind of topic that would engage us in a way that has proven as interesting and rewarding as it has but appearances can be deceiving.  Take the election that just ended a couple of weeks ago, you could say 6 billion dollars.  The pain of having to listen to all that punditry out of which we manage to garner so little to help us think about our choices on election day or in early voting, all the noise, the sound and fury, and we seem to have ended up where we began.  If I'm not mistaken, a 112 Congress the worst Congress ever wrote my colleague or at least his editor and title of his piece as I recall have Barrack Obama Democrat as President, the Democrats controls the Senate and the Republicans in the House.
^M00:30:01 Well, you mean after all of that ferment, we end up right where we are, a status quo election of which all of the maladies of American politics return is could it be true.  Well, it could be true but it isn't true.  Fortunately, appearances can be deceiving and in this case, as I will suggest near the end of my remarks, I think they certainly are.  Norm laid out the argument of the book and I just simply want to begin by underscoring several features of it.  We dedicated the book to Austin Ranney, in addition to members of our family, and we did that because we knew and love the Austin, and he was a great political scientist but mainly because of his famous descent from the floor to the 1950 report of the American Political Science Association Committee toward a more responsible party system.  That was a time when some of our greats--great thinkers in the field of American and comparative politics argued that our party system was a mess.  There was no character to it.  There was no differentiation.  We needed choices for the electorate so they could make reason decisions and then hold those people accountable.  We needed in fact parliamentary parties.  As they looked longingly back to Britain and North Canada and even all the way to Australia, the Westminster-style parties were what they had in mind.  It was one of the few times a report of the APSA got a lot of attention and people talked about it.  And there was the young Professor Austin Ranney who first wrote on that article and then a monograph and said, "Whoa, wait just a minute."  Parliamentary parties cannot operate effectively in our constitutional system.  It was designed to prevent the very ideological definition of parties to ensure that the party that loses, say the White House, does not participates in policy making, that it was a system designed in which individual members representing very diverse constituencies and interest could come together and have the incentives, personal career incentives to engage in some policy making.  Austin said, "It will be a disaster."  It would be a disaster if we follow that route.  It's a formula for inattention to serious problems and absolute gridlock.  Well, fortunately the report got a little attention but no one did anything about it and therefore, Austin wasn't tested until the current period, sadly, most of which is after he passed, he passed away.  But as we observe the politics of the last three or four years, it seems to us that Austin's nightmare was coming true.  There really is now a profound mismatch between the kind of political parties we have and the institutions of government within which those parties must operate.  It sets up perverse incentives which in the case of Obama's first two years led to opposition, unified opposition to everything and anything he proposed even if it involved policy proposals, they had recently sponsored themselves.  It was part ideological but it was a good part strategic, and it has been a disaster.  But the second part as Norm said and this is the most difficult part of all is the fact that while Democrats may have their got a bit off track in the period of the '60s and '70s and the contemporary era, it was the Republican Party that was doing so.  It's a party that has really become a radical insurgency.  We use the rather dramatic long sentence to make the case in writing it, we knew it was the sentence likely to be plucked out but we're trying to get attention.  It was--it was something like this.  They had become ideologically extreme, contentious of the inherited policy regime going all the way back to Roosevelt and I mean Theodore not Franklin.  Scornful of compromise, skeptical of facts, of evidence, and science, and perhaps most worst sum of all simply dismissive of the legitimacy of the political opposition.  I mean that is the core of our system, the legitimacy of differences.  We're all Americans, we can differ amongst ourselves, but to differ is not to deaminize and to characterize as non-American or un-American but that's what happened.  This has a long fascinating history backed up by increasingly rich sort of scholarly research.  We have tried to sort of summarize and synthesize and present some of our own observations, but the case is powerful and can't simply be ignored.  The strategy was in place before Barack Obama was elected President.  I simply remind you that when people ask me, "Is this really all about race?"  And I know they're superb scholars of race and politics at this university, and the evidence is powerful that there is a role of ratio resentment in the vote.  But I said, "Think going back to Bill Clinton's administration, he was a grow white-boy from the south, okay?"  And he decided after running on a tax cut in a stimulus program that he had to do something about the deficit.  He worked at it lowing and hard in his first year and it passed.  It was similar to what Bush 41 had done in the composition but it attracted not a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.  And his problem was only within his own party.  Fortunately, reconciliation provided a means by which he could get it through the Senate with a simple majority, but there was nothing simple about it.  Dave Boren and Bob Kerrey made him twist in the wind.  And of course, Clinton was the subject of hearings about this criminality throughout his presidency and he was impeached.  So, isn't this if everything was hunky dory back then, this has been a long time developing but with Barack Obama's election, it really culminated in this Austin Ranney nightmare where the Republicans and both the House and Senate in a way that's now been fully documented, decided their only root back to power was the failure of the administration.  Now this wasn't just Mitch McConnell saying that in 2010, it was discussions and meeting that have now been fully reported on the day of his inauguration.
^M00:40:05 This is a strategy put in place well before time, and it has played out in a very painful fashion.  Ironically, the first two years of Obama's presidency were unusually productive but the country had little sense of anything good having been down for the very reasons that Norm discussed.  Now, why does this appear to have been the best kept secret in American politics?  Many of you was wowed, we know that, we knew that was going on but did you read about it?  And I mean you heard the partisan press going back and forth on it, but what about your regular newspapers, did you see any sort of long investigated stories about the sort of radical turn of the Republican Party?  Did you see the any exceptions to the norm of symmetry between the parties and then the reporting of stories on them?  It's really quite stunning.  It's simply impolite to do what Norm and I did which is to say it in company, in public company.  And it became extremely difficult for some of the best reporters in this country to write the stories they would have like to have written because of the fears of their editors and producers of charges, of partisan bias.  There were economic forces involved as well but it's an amazing story.  Some have called it a false equivalence but it--leaning over backwards--well, Republicans do this but Democrats do this.  It's he said, she said, they're all in it together.  Same thing happened with our good government, non-partisan groups.  Many of them are concerned about the budget deficit and trying do something about it, you know, any sort of rational person could look and see one of the big obstacles was this if you--it was Grover Norquist and his tax pledge that if it's there and it's--it dominates and everyone agrees with it then it deserves some special attention.  If people are to understand what's going on but if--the irony is all these groups then said, "Well, we've got to bring the parties together," and so it's an assumption of symmetry and we have to find the golden mean between the two.  It was absolutely apolitical and it was remarkably demobilizing, that is what's the public to think about what's going on if everything they hear and read about it is that they're all in cahoots, it's the same thing.  You can't get any kind of strategic thinking or behavior.  I must say it applied to scholars and analysts like Norm and myself in writing this book, went through three book-length sort of studies of polarization, partisan polarization in Congress, collections of articles and I couldn't find any mention of Democrats and Republicans.  It was a generic finding.  Now, Keith Poole and colleagues were on to this early as were a number of other political scientist but the general thing is even as faculty members, we're uncomfortable getting up and talking to our students and saying, "You know, the parties aren't equivalent here.  There's something else, there's a different reality going on because it makes us feel uncomfortable."  But sometimes, that's our job to be uncomfortable, to make people feel uncomfortable and I just feel as if all of us, for a number of years, we're letting a public down.  That applies to leaders and the business community who sat by while the Republicans took the debt ceiling hostage and slowed the economy and lowered our credit rating and now threatened to do it once again.  The leadership in civil society was as disconnected, unengaged in this biggest story in American politics in many decades as everyone else.  But in spite of all of these, voters somehow produced an outcome that offers some modest ray of hope.  The Republicans gambled and lost.  The gamble was we're going to take out Obama and the Democrats will be back in the White House, we'll control Congress and we can then put our program in place.  Everything was based on that and even though the line up looks the same as it did before the election, it's profoundly different.  Barrack Obama got himself re-elected and as those form of votes come in and California votes, the margin is now moved, I believe above 3 1/2 percent and the electoral votes around 332, not a bad election for a polarized electorate in which a number of people who are opened to voting opposite their party leanings is mighty thin.  Against all odds, the Democrats with 23 seats up in the Senate to only 10 for the Republicans were--and only a three-seat majority in the Senate actually added two seats.  They lost only one of their seats, Nebraska, where their incumbent Senator had retired.  The House, of course, produced a gain for the Democrats.  It now looks as if the final number will be 8, they needed 25 to take a majority.  They won the popular vote for the house.  Republicans are much more efficiently distributed across Congressional districts, quite apart from any gerrymandering.  It's simply the reality that Democrats living clusters in urban areas and have incumbents with 80--85 percent of the vote while Republicans, you know, 60 percent, 65 will do just fine, thank you.  And then the partisan gerrymandering on top of that made a difference.  If you think about it and sort of as the public thinks about it and made specially clear because of the extent to which Republican office holders, analysts, activists and even rank-and-file voters were operating in a different world.  They believe that evidence synthesized by Nate Silver and Simon Jackman at and other places was all biased and they had it all wrong and they didn't understand and they honestly believe that they were going to win the election, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, and that jolt has a really made an extraordinary difference.  Let me simply say Obama now has four more years in office to consolidate the legislative victories from his first two years to lead the administrative states to return the issues like immigration, infrastructure, R&D.  The politics in some fascinating ways has begun to change, the perhaps sort of most important is that some Republicans have gotten a signal that if they are to be a competitive, vibrant party with ample opportunities to win the presidency and the Congress, some changes are going to have to be made.  It's partly the demographics at work but it really is more than that.  And we're beginning to see the signs of that ferment all around.  The fiscal cliff is really on austerity crisis that is a manufactured crisis.  We didn't have to have it, it's a consequence of the debt ceiling politics.
^M00:49:58 But we are now entering a period of very different bargaining leverage of a president who sees a combination of engagement and confrontation of holding firm the principles as Mr. Lincoln did in the movie I saw this weekend while pragmatically being opened the ways of getting the job done is in fact the world that we see Republicans restless to legislate once again and not simply be part of a parliamentary opposition party.  It's not all getting better.  It's never going to look good.  I could imagine as sliding down the slope before we resolve the immediate problem.  They're going to fight, they're not going to love one another, there will be no consensus in the country but there may be majorities and occasionally, super majorities to get the people's work done and given what we've lived through, that ain't bad.  Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]
>> Hello.  My name is Claire Hutchinson and on behalf of the students of the Ford School, I'd like to say thanks again for coming today, really enjoyed your talked.  So we have quite a few questions from the audience, and the first one is what do you think is the most effective way to fix our problem of Congressional gridlock right now?  And we have three kind of suggestions from the audience.  One was filibuster reform, the reform of the apportionment of Congressional districts, and the third was the introduction of a strong third party.
>> We address all of this.  You know, half of our book is actually what to do about this.  Well, recognizing that there is no panacea, there is no magic bullet.  Part of it is it's a cultural problem as much as it is a structural one and changing culture is much harder.  There is also a section called bromides to avoid, and we were quite harsh in the book about the third party movement, the Americans Elect movement.  Our system is not setup structurally easily to have a third party.  It's a very high hurdle to overcome and the idea which I think has been common especially over the last year or so and it was picked up on by major thought leaders and pundits like Tom Friedman was the yearning for somebody riding in on the white horse to change everything.  But it's a nightmare if you think about what happens if there's a third party candidate who pulls a plurality of electoral votes or wins at least enough to send it to the house where you'd select the president from the top three by state, what the state having one vote and the third party candidate would have not a single person who would be an adherent there much less the governing difficulties it would follow.  We need to look to our parties and what we basically say is we don't want to see a Republican Party disappear we wanted to back as a vibrant important competitive party, but one that is a conservative not a radical party and is a problem solving party.  So, that's the first one, redistricting--we thought long and hard for redistricting reform, it's also no panacea.  For some of the reasons that Tom mentioned about the way we are sorting ourselves out in the districts, but also once again the culture.  It wasn't redistricting that had Bob Benenett one of the five most conservative members of the Senate from Utah unable to win even the ability to run for his own party's nomination because he had work with a Democrat, Ron Wyden to try and find bipartisan health policy.  It wasn't redistricting that got Arlan Specter to leave the Republican Party because he couldn't win a statewide nomination in the party that he had been a part of for many decades.  So, it's deeper than that.  We do believe that some of the ways out of this that were external to the Congress or the politics in Washington, and I would just say first among them we want to make voting easier and we want to win large the electorate.  It is not healthy to have a political system where a tiny share of the electorate dominates the process especially the primary and caucus process in choosing the candidates where in framing the choices that we have and I won't spend time going over the things that we would do there, but we can talk about it later if we want to.  And on the filibuster, it's been used in ways that it unprecedented in history.  It had been a pure weapon of obstruction and it's been a partisan weapon which is not the way it worked in the past.  Civil rights issues, it wasn't a partisan issue, it was faction basically, it was conservative Southern Democrats who filibustered civil rights, and voting rights issues and it was a bipartisan majority that overcame them ultimately.  This is unusual and different.  And reformers called for even though the rule hasn't change since 1975, the practice has in the last 5 or 6 years.  But once again, it's no panacea and particularly, if you have the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, if you made it much easier in the Senate for them to pass legislation, that's not going to solve the problems right now and the way you go about it becomes important as well.  But we've been working hand in glove with many Senators, now mostly democrats, we hope that this could be done with some bipartisan support to return the filibuster to what it was originally or at least over many decades use as which is a very rare way for a minority that felt deeply and intensely about an issue of great national significance to bring things to a whole for a while and to focus attention on it.  We've gone away from that, there are ways to deal with it.  But whether what they're talking about now works problematic.
>> My name is Kelvin Vuong and I'm the master of public policy candidate at the Fourth School, the next question from our audience, do lobbyist and lobby groups contribute to our current dividing Congress, and how has there role change with regards to this in the past 10 to 20 years?
>> Lobbyist are source of our problems and absolutely essential participants in the Democratic process, the right to petition government for the redress of grievances is a constitutional right.  The fact is without lobbying public policy would be dumber than it often is.  When policy makers, legislators desperately need relevant information of problems, and how policies would respond to the particular conditions that that exist out there.  But we have this dilemma of the intertwining of interest representation and campaign fundraising.  It's so close and its members who are more likely to importune lobbyist to come to their fundraiser and get their pack to make a contribution, they are usually the drivers of this system.  You can set up rules dealing with the conflicts of interest.  Obviously, there are laws against bribery and extortion.  But as Bob Kaiser said, they're so damn much money.  And now, to be competitive for subcommittee or committee chairmanship, the important area one has to be known is a good party fund raiser.  There's enormous redistribution of resources, so even the many safe members feel obliged to raise a lot of money.  And so, they--because the party expects it to then redirect it to competitive suit, so members go looking for money from the people they see and we have no rule as some states too prohibiting fund raising while the legislature is in session, and there are perfectly legal ways of contributing and bundling money and engaging in a whole host of other activities.  It's now becoming further complicated since the citizen's united decision with the proliferation of allegedly independent spending only committees which can raise unlimited sums from any source and spend it in campaigns asking their 501c4 affiliates.  And there, the problem is more pernicious.  I mean if you're a member of Congress from a, you know, a reasonably safe seat, you won with 58 percent of the vote, 60 percent.
^M01:00:03 And you hear third hand that the Super PAC is thinking about pumping a couple of a million dollars into a campaign against you in the last two or three weeks of the campaign.  But that if, you know, you were a little more sympathetic and would hereof he argument or so, it might make a difference.  The potential is for really egregiously unethical and inappropriate behavior is enormous.  Many of the best lobbyist, they're uphold by this possibility.  But no easy answers to again to this, all of them, we have proposed a number in our own recommendations on campaign finance that would limit the direct participation of register lobbyist in fundraising.  But we're fully aware of how it can be done indirectly and ways that frustrate that effort.
>> All right, the next question is very relevant to a lot of the things that people are thinking of this week up to the end of the year.  What are the prospects of the Congress in the Obama administration to be able to come together on a bipartisan agreement on new legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff?
>> It was interesting to see some of the dynamic of that election and Republicans being stunned by the defeat.  It was a particularly interesting phenomenon.  I think if they have been realistic, you know, one of the real losers on this campaign was Romney's pollster Neil Newhouse who has become famous.  He was a good pollster but he's becomes famous for saying, "This campaign will not be bound by fact checkers."  But he also was one of those who told Romney go and ride up until the middle of election that they were going to win and win easily.  And if you go and thinking gee, you know, we could win but we may very well lose and it might not even be that close we might lose.  You're going to have a different attitude.  If you really think you're going to win and win big, and you lose big, it disorients you, it makes you rethink a lot of your own suppositions.  And the very direct strategy that we've talked about of using obstruction to try and bring down Obama and then bring on a new team that could implement a revolution went out the window.  And that combine with that final week in the Cristie Obama dynamic changed a lot of thinking and changed people on the Republican side in Congress and they're thinking gee, you know, maybe we better get this one out of the way then we'll get immigration out of the way.  And then maybe we can find a different stabilization in where we are and where we're going.  So, I think the sentiment to do something in this area now is fairly great.  But I'll take you back to what we were talking about earlier.  The pathologies are still there.  And for John Boehner who'd like to cut a deal just to see what it'd like to cut a deal a year ago but couldn't get pass his own leadership team, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy would be among them.  Much less the outside force is like Grover Norquist now we may not have quite the same problem with these other leaders.  But the fact is if you're going to come up with a deal and we know what the deal is and we know that this is a deal that whatever the ideological gulf every group that has span the spectrum comes up with the same template, 4 trillion dollars over ten years, roughly a third from revenues and then everything else gets a haircut here and there.  But to get there means that you're going to be taking on the club for growth and your members are not worried so much about the broader public backlash as they are about what happens in their primaries coming forward.  Lift your head out of that foxhole, it gets shut off.  So, it's still very difficult to do.  The substantive difficulties are enormous as well.  You've got to decide how much money you're going to raise out of that 4 trillion.  And then how you're going to raise it but in a way that hits the rich significantly more heavily maybe not just by raising rates and that's not easy to do.  You got two weeks to come up with the dollar amount and the formula even if you don't have all the specifics and then move some of those pieces around.  The way you do it is you pass a new budget with reconciliation instructions so that the committees have to do all that fill in the details a few months down the road.  And then you've got to decide if that dollar amount and the formula is enough that you can do commensurate things on the side of entitlements, Medicare, but also possibly social security, and how you're going to deal with the sequestration by coming up with an equivalent amount and cuts in discretionary spending, domestic and defense, but without the mindless across-the-board nature and also without taking it--having it take effect immediately facing it in so that you can have an economy that keeps moving, and you got to deal with the debt limit because otherwise you could do all these and then have another crisis two months down the road.  If you have infinitely good will, that's tough to do but it's not there.  And now you have the complication of the filibuster where Republicans in the Senate are ready to go to war, go to the mattresses as it were if it's--if their changes made without their participation.  So, I think the incentive to come up with a deal is enormous.  The business community is involved for the first time.  Tom mentioned the business community.  They've been a part of the tribal politics and part of them still are, the Chamber of Commerce frankly is still a wholly on subsidiary of the Republican Party.  But other business leaders are involved now.  The markets are waiting for reaction.  But I will be stunned if we have a resolution of this wrapped up with a bow before Christmas, and it's going to be some heavy issues and difficult waters before we get there.  And don't be surprised if we end up with something.  It can do what happened with TARP, if you recall at a much worst time, we are really just about to go over the edge.  And remember that the TARP built put forward by President Bush and his treasury secretary supported by the two presidential candidates and every Congressional leader and every outside figure of substance failed in the House because the House Republicans voted no.  Then the Dow drops 750 points.  Back then that was a big deal.  And they came back and passed it.  It would be surprising to me if we didn't have at least one of those setbacks where you get an adverse reaction before they come back to the table and get it done.  By the way in this, I would just end by saying it's not just the problem on the Republican side.  Every second term president faces enormous challenges from his own base.  They think now he is one re-election, he doesn't have to worry about that anymore, we can get everything we want.  And they're already hardening positions.  This has to be a deal where everybody gives something painful and any deal that gets through the House is probably going to have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, getting the Democrats maybe just as difficult as getting Republicans before we're done.
>> Let me just add a word to that because it's so visible and so important.  I mean sort of ironic that it's so important.  For the last few years, the sky has been falling we were told because of our runaway deficits and debt, right?  Set that aside, never mind.  Now the sky is falling because we are cutting deficits too much and too quickly.  Well, let me try to get my bearings here and see what the problem is there is some truth to both of those but the exaggeration of each is sort of problematic as well and we need to sort of keep, sort of keep that in mind.  Listen, Obama would like nothing better than putting this issue off to the side.  That is dealing with it now that it last us for decade and then we get to the real drivers of our fiscal problems, healthcare cause.  He would love it because he could move on to things that he thinks are important including research and development, and immigration, and energy policy, and on and on.  They are very exciting and interesting things to do instead of this, so I think he'll probably bend over backwards even taking some heat from his party to get something done.  But don't ignore the possibility that in the end, it's not an even balance of Democrats and Republicans that the Republicans as a party state dug in but a substantial enough number of them break off to build a cross party, if not bipartisan collision.  I don't know how it's going to happen, I know it's going to be difficult, it's going to take longer, it's going to be messy and we're going to have another explanation of how the sky is falling before we get it done.
^M01:10:11 But I bet you 6 months from now, 8 months from now, we'll be moving on to other issues.
>> Okay, changing back towards cycle of political parties.  This party polarization in Congress just reflect fundamental differences and beliefs about federal versus state power and is it possible that federal gridlock will create more empowered states with very different policy choices from the state to state?
>> Well that's a very interesting question.  It probably came out of Barry's course on federalism.  [Laughter]  It's a fascinating question.  You know, there's something nice and wanting to believe that the polarization in Congress leading to inaction will see a transfer of authority to state governments where all those state legislatures are operating so wonderfully.  The partisan polarization has hit the states certainly in legislative politics.  We've seen it in governorships.  I guess the only place I see really pragmatic problem solving is in metropolitan areas, you know, in the cities and the broader areas where you actually get business people and universities, labor, and government set various levels working together.  I mean they have to trade agenda, they have a genuine economic development agenda.  Things are low enough, close enough to the ground that you can't live on ideology.  You've got to begin to deal with real practical problems.  So, I actually and there's then the case that, you know, we have this interest incession running around.  Texas is the hot bed, I want you to know they took an informal vote in Washington and everyone was waiting goodbye to them, you know, inviting them to leave.  But listen, there is such variation among states that it's hard, there are clear limits to the degree to which power can be devolved.  So I'm skeptical and my ray of hope is with the metropolitan governance.
>> Let me just add couple of points.  One is there are stark ideological differences here but they're not as stark as they seem.  There's a lot of talk in the republican side about the Tenth Amendment and the importance of federalism except when Oregon voted in a referendum to have an assisted suicide law, you had and enormous move to try and block it and repeal it.  It's we are for the states doing what they want unless they do something we really don't want.  And you see the same thing with tort reform.  It's--we need a federal step here because we don't like what the states are doing.  So, there's--it's not quite us diverse ideologically.  The other side of it is that we are going to see vast differences with the states but the states are going to have a tough time of it.  They would have had in frankly and much tougher time of it if Mitt Romney had won and the Ryan Budget had been implemented.  Cutting Medicare by--Medicaid by 25 to 39 percent and saying now the states can do whatever they want and there'll be magical formulas where they can provide those benefits was nonsense.  And the idea now even that states are going to reject as the Supreme Court has allowed them to do, the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act which means that all of those people who--some of whom are on Medicaid, others who would have gone on who will be uninsured and will be going to emergency rooms into public and community hospitals which will have to pay for them.  They're not going to be terribly happy with their states and if we cut back on the loop holes and exemptions in the tax code, the mortgage--excuse me, the municipal bond deduction, if that goes away then states are going to immediately have much higher burrowing cost, 2 percent or more cut a way on the sate local tax deduction, and they're going to have a hard to time raising revenues.  It's going to be tough for those states.  Some of the states however are going in a very different path and some of that is being governed by the Koch brothers and the Post-Citizens United money.  Koch brothers bought Kansas for about 3 million dollars several weeks ago, it was cheap.  Because basically they went into Republican primaries and knocked out all the moderate Republicans to elect people who would work with Governor Brownback to turn it into and experiment.  And what you're going to see in Kansas is an experiment of whether or more radical set of policies can work.  They're doing the same thing and moving in the same direction in Arkansas.  And we're going to see some states where you're going to have that federalism of 50 laboratories and we'll see how it works and that may govern in different ways.  But otherwise, I think ultimately, many of these governors who've taken more radical postures can't move in that direction if they want to do anything for their states.  Because those realities that Tom said will intrude.
>> This our last question for the day and I think it safe to say that it's the most popular one, we had five from the audience and one on Twitter on this specific topic.  So why the Republicans show such loyalty to Grover Norquist No-Tax Pledge, is there a loyalty to cause of polarization or is it just a symptom of it?
>> I thought it would be boxers or briefs.  [Laughter]  I'm wrong again.  We can both answer that.  You know, we did in keen of this book a long piece on the Washington Post Outlook section in which we pointed to a couple of people who have significant responsibility for this tribal dysfunction.  One was Newt Gingrich and the other was Grover Norquist.  And you can blame Grover only so much.  You know, you can't force people to sign pledges or to abide by pledges.  But coming up with the idea of a pledge mobilizing people behind it, making it very difficult if you didn't sign it and some of you may remember vaguely even Bob Dole in an early bid for the presidency in a New Hampshire debate being ask about signing a pledge and sort of dancing around it, and being vilified because of basically money was for raising taxes.  And that led to a stampede of people willing to sign the pledge and Norquist who got plenty of money from big outside groups who build his own close relationships with Jack Abramoff among others and has prospered with his group but he's used it for enormous leverage as well can't be counted out even now.  Even as you get people getting a little distance from him but watch carefully what they're saying as they get there distance from him.  Some I think very courageously Saxby Chambliss of Georgia who are already as people lining up to run against to them in a primary.  Taking it on when he's up in two years, there's a profile encourage really.  But they're all saying, you know, we'll for revenues but they're going from revenues the same way that Mitt Romney he said he would go for revenues.  We don't need to, we can't raise rates.  We can get it through economic growth by closing some of the loop holes.  So, we have yet to see how much they're going to violate that particular pledge and whether he will be discredited enough that he becomes a kind of footnote in history.  But it's a key point and it's a key point as well because the Republican Party now in some ways has defined itself through we are the party that wants to cut taxes, under any circumstances we want to cut taxes.  And if that gets out to a public amplified by the media into an almost religious belief, that is the one thing to do and if you violate it, you are basically committing apostasy.  Overcoming that is enormously difficult, the failure to overcome, it means you can effectively participate in the bargaining table to govern them.
>> Grover is a entrepreneurial policy and political activist, he really has build something of--that's lasted low these many years.  He's a very unassuming, you know, unimpressive person.  He's not a party boss but he's clever and he convinces a meeting, a regular meeting of conservative groups who talked together.  And these include the groups that raise and spend money independently and in Republican primaries.  It's the club for gross that are, that will threaten and if necessary, deliver on their promise to oppose incumbents who violate their pledge to never raise tax rates and never by eliminating deductions or loop holes raise any new net revenue.
^M01:20:18 You must compensate by lowering other rates so if you do that, that's the two part pledge.  It's going to be broken in weeks or months.  So the second part is gone already.  The question is what happens to the first.  It may survive if we go off the cliff because then everyone will be busy deciding which taxes to cut, not which taxes to raise.  But I think Norm is right that the one of the most encouraging signs are the voices finally.  I mean Al Simpson has been saying it forever.  You know, who is this little [inaudible] but I don't know who he is and I don't care.  But it's spreading and there are enough who does in the party who know, if they're going to come through this period.  You know, they're going to have to become known for something else, still be for more limited government and a better tax code, a more efficient way of taxing and as low as possible.  You know, there are many constructive, conservative things to be done on this agenda but Grover and his pledge I think is showing signs of weakness.  I don't yet see a state being pounded into its heart.  But it may wither in die slowly.
>> I want to add one more thing.  We point out in the book, you know, the part of the course in culture that we have where, you know, saying outrageous things brings no sense of approbation or shame.  A comment made by Steve Schwartzman who is a billionaire and one of the founders of the Blackstone Group and when the idea of changing the tax rate for carried interest that the hedge funds use up to the same level as other income came up, he lightened it that moved to Hitler invading Poland which is just, you know, over the line and beyond the pale and all the rest of it.  But it's a reflection or something else here which is the inequality that we have now which is sharper than we have ever had before.  And that group that's not the one percent but the one-tenth of one percent.  That includes business leaders now who make 10 to 50 times as much CEOs as their predecessors did 20 years ago.  And for whom, you know, the realities of capitalism don't apply.  It's not if you succeed, you'll be rewarded, if you fail, you'll be punished.  If you succeed, you'll be rewarded, if you fail, you get a golden parachute and you might get even more coming out of it.  And the same with people who basically churn money and don't produce anything but can make fortunes has warped I think the sensibilities of the country.  And one of the test I think for the Republican Party now and it was interesting to hear Billy Crystal say, you know, why are we tying ourselves to these multimillionaires is to get back to a notion of capitalism, that is a much better notion where you get rewarded for the success and punish for failure and not tie yourselves to a group of people but unfortunately in the Post-Citizens United world, a group of people who even more leverage than they had before, and change the dialogue.  If they can do that then they've got a chance I think even with the demographic challenges facing them that this selection made so clear of becoming competitive again.  And if they can't then we're still going to see wild distortions in our politics and policy arena but it's not going to be a very pretty picture for them over the long run or for us frankly.