The Party of Confrontation

In their book It’s Even Worse than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein explore the causes of permanent conflict in Congress. While their book explores the history of partisan conflict in the modern Congress, they place much of the burden for the failure of the 112th Congress on the Republican Party. They write:

[T]he Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country’s most pressing challenges….A key to the new dynamic was the new generation of Republican leaders in the House—a group calling themselves the ‘Young Guns,’ the name alone demonstrating their swagger and commitment to new confrontational politics and in your face tactics designed to distinguish them from both their compromising predecessors and their accommodating senior colleagues. Led by incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican Young Guns were an interesting phenomenon. The parties have often had young turks rebelling against their leaders and pushing for bolder, simpler, and more confrontational solutions. These young turks were not outsiders, however, but core members of their own party establishment and key figures far up in the party leadership.
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