Hear the conversation 18:48 – 10.7 mb mp3
“Our mission is to inform public policy and improve governance in Michigan,” Matt Grossmann tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. Grossmann directs MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR).
“And we get to cover the issue spectrum and be a part of state politics and policy making and try to connect the university with what’s happening down the road at the state Capitol.”
Grossmann says people who go through IPPSR’s Michigan Political Leadership Program are “twice as likely to run for office and three times as likely to win elective office. So part of it is just giving people the tools they need to get in positions of responsibility.
“But then once they get there, we hope that they’re able to work across the aisle better. They’ve had experiences with people from the other party, and they tend to keep those friendship networks going and understand better where the other party is coming from.”
Grossmann’s latest book is titled Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats.
“Our view is that the two political parties are very different. The Republican Party is sort of united around broad principles and views about the size and scope of government and the role of America in the world. And the Democratic Party is really a coalition of disparate social groups, each of which has a different policy concern.
“And we think that they operate quite differently, both in campaigns and government, and we seem to treat them as mirror images too often.
“We also say that each party has a potential majority in the American public, and it’s because we have a divided political mind. We agree with the Republicans in principle but the Democrats often in practice. Public opinion shares broad conservative views about government, but when it comes to policy specifics, it’s often more favorable to the policy plans of the Democratic Party.
“Both of the parties are different, and they need to understand each other better in order to communicate.”
Grossmann says the parties do indeed compromise and “tend to pursue Democratic goals through Republican means. And we have a policy system that’s complicated. If we can get a more professionalized staff and infrastructure of people who know the policy history and differences, then they’ll be able to create better policy.
“And we don’t think the right answer is to paper over our differences or to pretend that there aren’t big policy disputes that are based on people coming at them with different principles. We think it’s better to work through the principles and policy goals and find a way to bridge the differences.”