Norman Jay Ornstein

American Enterprise Institute
Politics and public policy specialist; Commentator; Research institution staff member; Educator
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Public Affairs and Public Policy

Norman J. Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he has been studying politics, elections, and the U.S. 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 AEIs 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 a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & 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 Ph.D. and a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Minnesota.

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