AEI debate asks if the Republican Party has become ‘too extreme’

American Enterprise Institute  scholar Norman Ornstein   has a beef with the modern Republican Party, suggesting the party has become too extreme. Ornstein’s contention served as the center of contention during a lively debate with fellow AEI scholar Stephen F. Hayward  on Monday night.

While Ornstein did not use the  term “extreme” in his debating points, he implied that the Republicans are the ones responsible for the problems in Washington because of what he views as their obstructionist tactics. Ornstein’s attacks against congressional Republicans have earned him accolades from groups on the left such as Media Matters.

Ornstein contended that Republicans have been “much worse” when it has come to blocking President Obama’s nominations than Democrats ever were in the Reagan or George W. Bush eras. He praised Democrats by contrast  for cooperating with the last President bush in passing “No Child Left Behind” and suggested they gave Bush legitimacy by passing TARP.

Democrats cooperated when “they could have stomped on his neck, under the circumstances,” noting the controversial 2000 presidential election.

Hayward was more apt to say Republicans were extreme, stating, “Is the Republican Party extreme? I certainly hope so.  It was founded as an extreme party. Democrats are the party of the status quo, and that is the problem.” But Hayward conceded that polarization has occurred in both parties equally.

“I will not say that one party is good and the other is evil,” said Ornstein.  “I will not say Republicans are extreme.”

Ornstein said that there are plenty of Republicans  who he does not see as extreme, mentioning former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) for one.

Hayward summed up the state of both parties: “Democrats have not gotten over the fact they should be the permanent majority.”

But Ornstein was quick to say that Democrats have moved more to the left, but Republicans have moved much more to the right.

“Notice, Coolidge and Reagan wouldn’t recognize this kind of conservatism,” Ornstein said.

Neither party is willing to risk an election by passing controversial legislation, according.

“They don’t want to lose their empire,” said Hayward.  “Polarization has become asymmetric, or as the [Washington] Post puts it, it is Republican’s fault.”

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