Washington, D.C. – Conventional wisdom holds that the solution to political paralysis lies in ending gerrymandering, restricting money in politics and reducing polarization in the media. Not according to Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet, who sets out a pragmatic new strategy to get Washington working again in a new book set for release on September 9.
In CITY OF RIVALS: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy, Grumet looks beyond the usual diagnosis to a spate of ill-designed reforms that have undermined the opportunity for deliberation and “constructive partisanship.”
“Our conventional sense of why Washington is so broken gets a lot wrong,” asserts Grumet in the book’s prologue. “A closer look reveals that many of the reforms we’ve instituted to make government work more effectively—all of them pursued with the best of intentions—have, in practice, had the opposite effect. Through a series of bad assumptions and unintended consequences, we have weakened our government’s capacity to solve problems.”
Grumet asserts that the Founders believed that “a key to a well-run country was to build a political framework that forced constructive conflict and demanded collaboration.” In this environment, a type of political courage flourished, which allowed proud partisans from Kennedy and Reagan to Clinton and Gingrich to strike key deals that prioritized national imperatives over narrow interests. But now, asserts Grumet, “the personal contact and cadence that once enabled policy innovation and collaboration in Washington have been disrupted.” The think-tank leader blames not just the convenience of air travel, but a breakdown in public trust that has led to overzealous transparency and ethics reforms, as well as poorly designed restrictions on congressional travel, earmarks and campaign giving. Ironically, these reforms have empowered special interests while undermining the collaboration envisioned in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, Grumet declares that he is “fundamentally optimistic about the nation’s future” and that he believes “there is a way out of our contemporary gridlock”; namely, “improving our elections and appointments processes, empowering Congressional committees, and reconsidering reforms that have proved counterproductive.” He concludes, “at its best, our democracy has been partisan, antagonistic, adept, creative and confident. We must embrace this history and fight the urge to scrub the contention, personality and spirit out of the messy business of governing in a democracy.”
CITY OF RIVALS: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy, Grumet’s first book, features forewords by former Senate Majority Leaders and BPC co-founders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and will be published by Globe Pequot Press.
About Jason Grumet
Jason Grumet, founder and president of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), has worked at the intersection of policy and politics throughout his career. In 2007, with the leadership of former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, he founded BPC to develop and promote bipartisan solutions to the country’s most difficult public policy challenges. From 2001 to 2011 Grumet directed the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), which is now a former BPC project. A frequent witness at Congressional hearings, Grumet has written about the challenge of bipartisan collaboration in The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Hill, Roll Call and many other publications. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard University.
What They Are Saying About CITY OF RIVALS:
“In this valuable and judicious book, Jason Grumet explores the root cause of our political dysfunction, which is that the culture of collaboration that was once the foundation for American democracy has been denigrated and eroded. Fortunately, he’s an optimist, and his book describes a virtuous cycle that could restore, step by step, our government’s ability to solve problems.” —Walter Isaacson, award-winning author and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute
“This is one book that was so hot that it had to be held until after Labor Day. You need to pick up the fun and insightful read of Jason Grumet’s City of Rivals. As one half of a bipartisan couple, I know partisan politics pretty well and Grumet’s skillful handling and master of the subject matter in City of Rivals highlights the hope for bipartisan solutions.” —Political Consultant and Commentator James Carville
“Kudos to City of Rivals for embracing constructive partisanship. Jason Grumet understands that the secret of American politics is the ability to advocate with passion and grace. This book captures the essence of America Strength. Let the best ideas win.” —Political Consultant and Commentator and former Assistant to the President Mary Matalin
“When it comes to exploring potential solutions for today’s historic levels of congressional dysfunction, Jason Grumet brings a unique and compelling vantage point as founder and leader of the only Washington ‘think tank’ that actively promotes bipartisanship to address America’s most monumental challenges. City of Rivals offers a fascinating perspective on the origins of the current, crippling hyper-partisanship, and provocative recommendations for fostering the kind of cross-party collaboration that is essential to enabling Congress to produce results once again.” —Former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
“Jason Grumet’s provocative book shows how conventional wisdom can steer us in the wrong direction and how reformers acting with the best of intentions have unintentionally paved the way to our present dysfunction. But his timely, important, and refreshingly optimistic book also maps a way forward with a compelling defense of ‘principled compromise’ among party leaders who regard each other as worthy rivals rather than bitter enemies.” —Larry Kramer, president of William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and former dean of Stanford Law School
“City of Rivals traces how the elements that make the BPC so effective are being driven out of the federal government. America’s leaders today don’t know each other well enough and they don’t trust one another deeply enough to harness the sort of collaboration we need to succeed as a nation… City of Rivals boldly explores how many well intentioned and popular efforts to make government work better are doing just the opposite.” —Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), from the Foreword
“The unconventional insights offered…provide a practical and optimistic vision of how to get America back on track. It is good reading for anyone who wants to understand what’s gone wrong in the nation’s capital—and required reading for anyone who wants to do something about it.” —Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), from the Foreword