Mann is the W. Averell Harriman chair
and senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He
co-authored It’s Even Worse Than It looks
with colleague Norman J. Ornstein. The book focuses on long-term political
trends that have led to what he calls “the dysfunctional U.S. politics
“At the very time we need our government
to step up and engage and deal with these problems, we appear to have an utterly
dysfunctional political system with a Congress that now garners a 10% approval
rating,” Mann said.
The reasons Mann gives for why the
political system has become what it is are because of a mismatch of the parties
and the constitution and the extreme ideologies that prevent progress and
“They’re parliamentary style parties. They’re ideologically polarized, internally unified and vehemently adversarial. They’re engaged everyday in figuring out how they can get into the majority and
get their candidate in the White House or retain the power that they have,”
Mann said in his book the suggestion for
fixing the dysfunctionalism includes ideas like increasing the size of the
electorate, or making it mandatory to vote, instituting measures that would
stop the current filibuster technique which can be used as a super hurdle
stopping anything from passing and finding ways to get the public talking and
more educated about the issues.
“We have bromides to avoid, dumb ideas
that are always popular. We have specific electoral and institutional reforms
that we think might help produce less polarized parties and produce somewhat
greater capacity of majorities to act, but then we end with a call to voters
and say that you got to smarten up,” Mann said.
Seth Patrick was one of the students in
attendance. He said after listening to Mann he believes many members of the
public aren’t to one extreme or the other.
“What I took from it was that we still,
even though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go to actually
bring everyone together and realize that the vast majority of people are
moderates rather than this polarized ideals that a lot of politicians and media
pundits seem to have,” Patrick said.
Patricia Proctor is a political science professor and founding director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional
Democracy at Marshall. She’s in charge of finding speakers for Amicus Curiae
lecture series. Proctor said the point of the lecture and others is to make
“My goal is for people to be better
informed and more thoughtful about issues that affect us every day. I think
most people don’t pay very much attention to politics except during election
years, when really the things that happen affect us all the time, not just
occasionally, but every day,” Proctor said.
College of Liberal Arts Dean David
Pittenger said Mann’s topic was very important in today’s political world.
“People in the audience either agree
with him or disagree with him and I think that’s the whole point of the
conversation, that we need to bring to bear and examine those points we
disagree with and through that debate and through that analysis try to come up
with a better understanding of how to proceed,” Pittenger said.
Thomas Mann has made appearances on The
Daily Show, Morning Joe, The Rachel Maddow Show and PBS Newshour.