Orn­stein here to ad­dress the per­plexed, dis­il­lu­sioned and des­per­ate

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By ed­ward dol­nick

Since the 1980s, ev­ery po­lit­i­cal re­porter strug­gling to make sense of Wash­ing­ton has sooner or later turned to the same per­son for in­sight. Nor­man Orn­stein, a res­i­dent scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, is per­haps Amer­ica’s most em­i­nent po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst. His new­est book, One Na­tion Af­ter Trump: A Guide for the Per­plexed, the Dis­il­lu­sioned, the Des­per­ate, and the Not-Yet-De­parted, im­me­di­ately soared onto the best-seller list.

On Fri­day, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m., Orn­stein will give RAAC’s Sec­ond Fri­day Talk.

Be­cause he will likely draw a large au­di­ence, Orn­stein will speak at the Theater in Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton, 291 Gay Street, and not at the li­brary. The talk is free, and all are wel­come.

Orn­stein rose to promi­nence partly be­cause he has a rep­u­ta­tion for non-par­ti­san­ship (his home base, the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, leans con­ser­va­tive). But the rise of Trump has shaken him.

In an in­ter­view, Orn­stein laid out some of the themes he plans to ex­plore in his Sec­ond Fri­day talk. He’ll dis­cuss “the arc of Trump and Trump­ism – how we got here, and the dan­gers he rep­re­sents, and what we can do about it.”

Orn­stein will look not just at Trump but at the forces that drive Amer­i­can pol­i­tics today. In a sort of po­lit­i­cal ge­ol­ogy, his sub­ject is the most re­cent earth­quake, and, what is more im­por­tant, the forces that make the ground shake and shift.

Cu­ri­ously, Orn­stein finds him­self feel­ing op­ti­mistic about the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture de­spite what he sees as the dark­ness of the present mo­ment.

“This is not busi­ness as usual,” he says. “We’re fac­ing a cri­sis far more dan­ger­ous than Water­gate.”

Even so, he fore­sees what he calls a “back­lash against the back­lash.” Trump’s ex­cesses are so im­pos­si­ble to miss, in Orn­stein’s view, that new coali­tions of out­raged vot­ers may rise up to chal­lenge him.

“The elec­tions in Vir­ginia and Alabama should give us a lit­tle hope,” he says. “There are heart­en­ing signs that peo­ple have been jolted by what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Orn­stein him­self has been jolted by seis­mic shifts in pol­i­tics over re­cent decades. In 2012 he pub­lished a book — also a best-seller — called

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tional Sys­tem Col­lided with the New Pol­i­tics of Ex­trem­ism. Six years be­fore, Newt Gin­grich had praised Orn­stein’s anal­y­sis of Congress. Now Orn­stein wrote that the two par­ties were not equally to blame for our po­lit­i­cal woes.

Jour­nal­ists con­tin­ued to churn out “both sides are at fault” sto­ries, he charged, but that sup­posed even­hand­ed­ness was in fact lazi­ness and bad re­port­ing. Orn­stein made his own views plain. Repub­li­cans had “be­come more loyal to party than coun­try,” he wrote, which left “the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem griev­ously hob­bled at a time when the coun­try faces un­usu­ally se­ri­ous prob­lems and grave threats.”

In the years since, Orn­stein ar­gues, the stakes have risen even higher. He points to is­sues linked with Trump in par­tic­u­lar — “we’d never had a pres­i­dent who raised grave and wide­spread doubts about his com­mit­ment to the in­sti­tu­tions of self-gov­ern­ment” — and to is­sues that reach be­yond any in­di­vid­ual

— “our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is now bi­ased against the Amer­i­can ma­jor­ity,” be­cause of ger­ry­man­der­ing and the elec­toral col­lege and the struc­ture of the se­nate (where empty states and crowded ones have equal say) and voter dis­en­fran­chise­ment.

“I’m try­ing to be hope­ful,” Orn­stein says, “but you can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the dan­gers here.”

Sec­ond Fri­day speaker: Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Nor­man Orn­stein

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