Norman Ornstein

Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Election Analyst for BBC News
Norman Ornstein
  • Columnist and contributing editor for The Atlantic, former election analyst with CBS News
  • First “pollster” for the Comedy Central network and first repeat guest on The Colbert Report
  • On the PBS Board of Directors for six years, with frequent appearances on Charlie Rose and The PBS NewsHour
  • Uses extensive experience to discuss topics such as today’s political climate and upcoming elections

Play Video View Fees Add to List

Check Fees & Availability


Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at AEI. He also serves as an election analyst for BBC News and is a columnist and contributing editor for The Atlantic. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other major publications. He regularly appears on television programs such as MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes, PBS’s Charlie Rose and The PBS NewsHour where he was recently recognized as the most frequent guest over the program’s thirty years. He was the first “pollster” for the Comedy Central network working with Al Franken in 1992, and was the first guest to appear twice on The Colbert Report.

He served as senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission, working to ensure that the institutions of government can be maintained in the event of a terrorist attack on Washington. He also co-directed of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. His leadership in reforming the campaign financing system with a working group of scholars and practitioners helped shape the McCain-Feingold Act, leading the Legal Times to refer to him as “a principal drafter of the law.” He served for six years as a member of the Board of Directors of PBS and is currently on the boards of the Campaign Legal Center, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and UCB, a Belgium-based biopharmaceutical company. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004; was the recipient of the American Political Science Association’s Goodnow Award for distinguished service to the profession in 2006; and received an honorary doctor of law from his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, in 2007.

His many books include The New York Times bestseller IT’S EVEN WORSE THAN IT LOOKS: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, out in a new edition in 2016; The Permanent Campaign and Its Future and Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy, all with Thomas E. Mann; and Debt and Taxes: How America Got Into Its Budget Mess and What to Do About It, with John H. Makin. The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, also coauthored with Thomas E. Mann, was published in August 2006 by Oxford University Press. It was picked both by the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as one of the best books of 2006. A May 2016 feature about him on called Ornstein “The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming.”

Continue Reading »

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. His understanding of our political trends led him to write a piece in the Atlantic in August 2015, called “Why This Time Might be Different,” predicting Trump’s rise. 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.” Where will this lead? Ornstein can analyze both our politics and the policy direction ahead.

The US Elections. 2016 may be the most unusual—and most pivotal—election in modern times. Norm Ornstein was one of the first to see that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination, and early on saw the corrosive impact of our partisan, polarized, tribal atmosphere. No one is better able to look at where we are, how we got here, what can happen and what it means.

American Politics and Health Policy. Starting with his book Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy, Ornstein has closely followed the changes in health policy wrought by Washington’s political actors, including via the Affordable Care Act. Where do we go from here? His knowledge of policy, politics and politicians leaves him uniquely suited to address those questions.

Continue Reading »

Topics & Types