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Will 2012 usher in more 'extremism'? Will 2012 usher in more 'extremism'?

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Will 2012 usher in more 'extremism'?

April 27, 2012
Next week, another book decrying political polarization hits store shelves: 'It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided Wth the New Politics of Extremism,' by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

Mann and Ornstein lay much of the blame for polarization and Congressional gridlock at the Republican party's door. The Republican party has transformed into an "ideologically extreme" outlier, "contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime," they write in the book's introduction.

They also blame voters. "The public's undifferentiated disgust with Congress, Washington, and 'the government' in general is part of the problem," Mann and Ornstein write. "In never-ended efforts to defeat incumbent officeholders in hard times, the public is perpetrating the source of its discontent, electing a new group of people who are even less inclined to or capable of crafting compromise or solutions to pressing problems."

The election in 2010 did, indeed, bring a corps of Republicans into Congress and state office committed to shrinking the size of government. Their mission hasn't been to compromise--it has been to slam on the breaks. But, as the Economist's Lexington columnist writes:

Who says a political party is not entitled to change its mind? And what gives a couple of think-tankers the right to specify where the political centre is, or to dismiss as "an outlier" a party that chooses to stray from it?

Voters went for the Democrats in 2008, and then swept conservatives into office in 2010. The big question, as we head into 2012, is whether the political center has shifted--or if, as Mann and Ornstein seem to suggest, voters are just grumpy and eager to 'throw the bums out.' As trust in government continues to fall, do you think we're more likely to see another wave election, another series of Tea Party victories--or to see people simply not bothering to vote at all? 
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