The authors, Mann and Ornstein, took up residence at the Brookings Institute (Mann) and the American Enterprise Institute (Ornstein), helping ensure objectivity; usually this also ensures that any conclusions are vague and mushy. Not here - their 'bottom-line' is that today's Congressional Republicans behave like they were in a British parliamentary, winner-take-all system. The problem is that such 'ideologically polarized, internally unified, vehemently oppositional' doesn't work in our 'separation-of-powers system that makes it extremely difficulty for majorities to work their will.' (My one criticism of this book is that it didn't really explain why the English system works in England and not in America.)
Republicans are now 'more loyal to party than to country,' and the political system hobbled and unable to address serious problems and threats. They are scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of Democrats' legitimacy.
The most glaring example is how House Republicans addressed the need to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. And its going to be repeated in 2013, per Senator McConnell in a Fox News statement.
Adding to this partisan warfare is the increased role of money on our politics - the worst of any time in over a century, possibly ever.
The authors grant former Speaker Gingrich special dishonor - painting the House as elitist, corrupt and arrogant when the Democrats controlled. His strategy - convince voters the institution was so corrupt that anyone wold be better than the Democratic incumbents. Further, his partisan attacks on adversaries created a new norm in which colleagues with differing views became mortal enemies, created the permanent campaign, and prioritized electoral goals over policy. (A current example - Rep. West, Florida Republican's recent assertion that there are 78 - 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party - a ridiculous statement that has yet to be condemned by Republican congressional leaders or presidential candidates.)
Grover Norquist offers another example of the take-no-prisoners approach. His Taxpayer Protection Pledge binds signers to never support a tax increase or close tax loopholes - as of the end of 2011 it had been signed by 238 of 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators. Other pledges have followed - eg. opposing climate change, that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. Failure to sign such pledges makes a primary challenge too likely. Loud denunciation of 'ObamaCare' has become a litmus test for anyone hoping to be called a 'conservative.'
Mike Lofgren, veteran Republican congressional staffer, ended his career last year after almost thirty years. He wrote, 'The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party . . . and more like an apocalyptic cult, or intensely ideological authoritarian parties of earlier Europe.'
Republicans in the Senate now repeatedly abuse the confirmation process to block innumerable nominees.
The news media also don't escape criticism - for failing to cover how the Republican Party has been transformed, and simply writing stories that imply both sides are equally implicated. The authors contend the media will have to start being more objective.
Bottom-Line: "It's Even worse Than It Looks" is level-headed, and fits well with other reports - eg. Chris Mooney's analysis of Republican psychological attributes and their chronic denial of, and ignoring facts. (Republican anti-intellectualism makes it easier to believe/claim government can do no good and shouldn't get more tax money.) The book also fits well with Amazon reviewers assessment of even marginally political books - those not fitting conservative ideology are regularly and uniformly panned, as well as those that condemn works that do. Practitioners of Republican politics are now dominated by vacuous ideology.