Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are back, this time with a fistful of goo-goo prescriptions that both "won’t work" and "will." The list is there to read, so here there is no need to review the five unworkable solutions to the nation's ungodly gridlock and sociopolitical decline as well as their four-point list of "a more sensible and promising reform agenda."
It is worth noting, however, that Mann and Ornstein's final item of unworkability is what we might call the Panglossian approach: the rather ho-hum attitude--prevalent especially among students of history--that American politics has always been a wretched snake pit crawling with personal aggrandizement, institutional cowardice, "acrimony and gridlock," "intense stress and polarization"--yet in frequency and intensity these things peak, and these things dip, and our present evils are merely one chapter of this endless and generally rosy cycle. I confess, as a student of history myself, that I possess perhaps an excessive sympathy for this interpretation.
On the other hand, I and many other observers of America's political scene have for some time compared its present circumstances to those, very loosely, of the sectional crisis; and as Mann-Ornstein dryly note, "it is not exactly comforting to compare what’s going on now to the years leading up to the Civil War."
In short, we cannot prudently dismiss our troubles as inherently, inexorably dismissable, since on at least one occasion the American political system broke down utterly and catastrophically.
Today, the GOP is as sclerotic, as ignorant, as demagogic, as hysterical and as hellbent on apocalyptic destruction in the service of a wholly doomed, virtually deceased ideology as was the Southern Democracy of the 1850s. The latter would have its way, no matter what; it would molest and distort the new Republican Party's countless attempts at compromise and peaceable coexistence; it would simply "make stuff up" about candidate, president-elect and President Lincoln; it would bully and bluster, because it had no legitimate argument; it would, if not forever appeased and coddled and effectively handed control of all separated powers, turn violent.
I'm not suggesting we'll again hear the boom of insurrectionist cannons. But after the above historical review and possibly too lengthy digression, I would suggest that the most straightforward path--unmentioned by Mann-Ornstein--to averting anything close to an 1850s-redux is simply to vote the neolithic nihilists out of power (after all, Mann-Ornstein also concede that Republicans are the problem). Way, way out of power; so humiliatingly, so crushingly that they won't forget it, at least not for another 152 years.
This is not an outright impossibility, some dreamy "what if," some absurdly delusional, democratic success-wish. The anti-GOP sentiment and pro-civilization votes are there, just as they were in 1932, also. But it would require actual engagement by Everyman, which means a professional ground game like we've never seen.