An Interview With Mike Lofgren, Author of "The Party Is Over"
Friday, 03 August 2012 00:00 By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout | Interview
Here's a great and very penetrating article by someone who was a GOP operative for 28 years. It's chock-full of political insight and a "must-read"! Here's an excerpt:
"Mike Lofgren spent twenty-eight years working in Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees, which gave him ringside seats on the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, debates on the Pentagon budget and the amazing antics of various deficit-reduction commissions. His "coming out" article as a citizen, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," garnered over a million views on Truthout. Lofgren has expanded on the insights of that article in his just-issued book, "The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted." Lofgren talked about the current situation:
Leslie Thatcher - for Truthout -: Mike, in the title of your book, you describe the Republicans as "crazy," but in articles and interviews here and elsewhere, you've described their tactics as deliberate political terrorism. How are those policies crazy for the super-funders who determine GOP policy?
Mike Lofgren: That is an interesting question that goes to the heart of a paradoxical aspect of the GOP. Of course people like the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson are engaging in a rational exercise to maximize their wealth. Their contributions will come back manifold in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and exclusive franchises. The primary purpose of the GOP these days is to provide tax breaks and other financial advantages (such as not regulating pollution and other socially costly externalities) to their wealthy donor base. All the rest of their platform, all the culture wars stuff, is simply rube bait.
One cannot get a majority of voters - who are decidedly non-rich - to knowingly pull the lever for a party that nakedly says "our platform is further enrichment of the wealthy, and, oh, by the way, we're also going to make your retirement benefits take a hit." That's where deep psychological insight comes into play. Most people, even when they have a sneaking suspicion that they are being shafted economically, are not well attuned to the complexities of credit default swaps, the London Interbank Offered Rate, or quantitative easing. And the media are definitely not interested in wising them up, especially when they can instead supply celebrity interviews, singing contests, or commercialized orgies like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics
Since the GOP is loath to tell the public in straightforward terms what their economic agenda is, and the media are not exactly forcing the GOP's hand, and, finally, the people are operating in a knowledge deficit, Republicans respond by sleight of hand: "We're more American than that Kenyan socialist in the White House!" Or "The Obama administration is riddled with Muslim extremists." Or "Planned Parenthood is taxpayer-subsidized murder." Or "Obama wants to take away your guns." Even "Obama raised your taxes," when in fact he lowered them. Stuff that is not terribly persuasive to well-informed people, but a lot of people are surprisingly ill-informed, and very few institutions - the corporate media least of all - have any interest in their being well-informed.
Now ask yourself, what kind of person can say some of the things the GOP says with a straight face? Granted, there are a number of intelligent, but deeply cynical, politicians who will say or do anything, knowing that what they say is false.
But increasingly, the GOP's ranks are being filled with what psychologist Erich Fromm called the "true believer." Despite the carnival aspect of American politics, I actually credit Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Louie Gohmert, and the rest of them, with being sincere. They really believe the drivel they are saying, and their groping and inarticulate sincerity connects with a certain populist and anti-intellectual strain in the American people that has been evident since the days of de Tocqueville.
I find it very significant, for example, that the Kochs were early funders of Michele Bachmann's presidential race. Titans of billion-dollar oil industries are, of course, too shrewd and cynical to believe the childish bosh that Bachmann spouts daily, but as a political stooge, she is worth the investment. The more controversy is stirred up about death panels and Muslim infiltration of the government, the less discussion there is, for example, about the tax subsidies for the oil industry. These people know what they're doing. They use a superficial populism tinged with craziness to further a rational, plutocratic agenda."