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Norman Ornstein        

Bestselling Author, Political Analyst & Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Norman J. Ornstein is a senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he has been studying politics, elections, and the US Congress for more than four decades. Along with Thomas Mann and Michael Malbin, he created “Vital Statistics on Congress” in 1980, a go-to-reference guide that provides impartial data for congressional watchers, and is updated every two years. He is also a longtime participant of AEI’s Election Watch series and an adviser to the Continuity of Government Commission.

Dr. Ornstein previously served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. He has been involved in political reform for decades, particularly campaign finance, election reform, and House and Senate reform. He has also played a part in creating the Congressional Office of Compliance and the House Office of Congressional Ethics. He was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.

He often appears on C-SPAN, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR, and “PBS NewsHour,” among other outlets. He served as an election analyst for CBS News for thirty years, and also was an on-air election analyst for BBC News. Through his family foundation named in honor of his late son Matthew, he helped spearhead the documentary “The Definition of Insanity,” about criminal justice and mental illness, which premiered at the Miami Film Festival in March 2020 and aired nationally on PBS on April 14, 2020.

Dr. Ornstein’s articles and opinion pieces have been published widely, including in Foreign Affairs, the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Politico, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today. He is also a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic.

Dr. Ornstein’s books include the New York Times and Washington Post bestsellers “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported” (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) with E. J. Dionne and Thomas E. Mann and “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism” (Basic Books, 2012) with Thomas E. Mann. His other books include, “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track” (Oxford University Press, 2006) with Thomas E. Mann; and “The Permanent Campaign and Its Future” (AEI Press, 2000) edited with Thomas E. Mann.

Dr. Ornstein has a PhD and a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Minnesota.

Speech Topics

Understanding the Upcoming Election

What's So Funny About Washington

Other Topics

Politics and Washington, The Bush White House, The Elections Ahead, The Politics of Health Policy, Politics and Economic Policy, Politics and Foreign Policy

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: Political Polarization in Washington

Nonpartisan congressional scholar Norm Ornstein discusses the hyperpartisanship that has seeped into every part of our political process. With Congress deadlocked and our two main political parties abandoning the idea of compromise, our political system is at a standstill. Ornstein identifies the two overriding problems in our institutions – the parliamentary shape our system has taken and the vehemently adversarial parties than have become ideologically extreme. With nothing happening simply for the good of the country, both sides would rather block bills they once supported than let the other Party have a “win.” While Ornstein states that there is no panacea, he does offer useful reform ideas, endorsing solutions like greater public participation, an institutional restructuring of the House and Senate, and a focus on fixing the true causes of the dysfunction rather than a rinse-and-repeat cycle of “throwing the bums out.”

The Institution of Compromise: Why Hyper-partisanship is No Laughing Matter

With a political climate that reveals an unprecedented level of hyper-partisanship and an extreme unwillingness to compromise, longtime political pundit and commentator, Norman Ornstein outlines how the U.S. is on the brink of institutional collapse and doubled-over in deadlock. As chronicled in his recent book, Its Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (2012), Ornstein identifies the two primary causes behind this pernicious state of affairs. At the lead is the issue of party mismatch and a governing system that makes it difficult for majorities to act. In close second is the issue of party culpability and asymmetric polarization. With a unique sense of humor, extraordinary eye for detail and over 30 years in the field, Ornstein discusses specifically what each of these issues entails and their possible solutions.

  • The American Political Landscape
  • The Direction of the Obama Administration in Politics and Policy
  • The Politics of Health Care Reform
  • Politics and Economic Policy
  • What's So Funny About Washington (Half Humorous, Half Serious Talk)


Why Congress Needs to Fix America's Broken Mental-Health System
Norm Ornstein is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal, and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise  ...
Memo to GOP: Forget your obstructionist policies. They backfired ...
Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, with Thomas E. Mann, of “It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the ...
Norm Ornstein Takes On The Media's Election Coverage Failures
American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein pointed to the flawed news judgment of political editors and cable news producers when it comes to election  ...

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