Monday, September 5, 2011

Confessions of a GOP Operative: The Inside Story on Republican Sabotage

I wanted to celebrate Labor Day by providing Maryland Juice readers with a new call to arms for Maryland Democrats, progressives, and anyone who continues to be baffled by the lunacy going on in the Republican Party. Stop being shocked and appalled. Stop assuming they are going to go away - they have more spiderholes to hide in than Saddam. Let's all start doing something. Now.

There is an incredibly well-crafted article that is making the email forwarding rounds right now in Democratic circles. The article in question, published Saturday on, discusses the long history of the GOP using sabotage of the federal government (which I would compare to treason) as their marketing tactic of choice. Many of the points are not new (ie: the deliberate starving of the federal tax base to force governments into anti-labor practices; the constant presence of an outsider group to scapegoat, etc).

Nevertheless, what makes the article fascinating (other than its well-stated arguments) is who wrote it:
Mike Lofgren retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.
His article, a parting shot to his former demented masters, is headlined:
Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult
Warning: I only excerpt the article below, as the full version is fairly long -- but it is well-worth a full reading. First, a brief pause: I started this blog NOT to try and fight Tea Party politicians like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, nor their financiers like the Koch family members. In truth, I launched this blog to try and be a part of stopping their (and their predecessors') efforts from gaining ground in Maryland. Specifically, I think we all need to try and halt their policy propaganda from continuing to infect the legislative process and public opinion in the State.

Hence, you may have noticed that my policy-oriented blog posts show a disdain for GOP policymaking like that discussed in the article below, but also Democratic policymaking that is either grounded in conventional wisdom instead of evidence and data -- or that panders to the "low information voter" framing of the issues. If you're curious what I mean by "low information voter," read the article excerpts below -- and I, of course, encourage you to check out the full article.

Excerpts from "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult"
Saturday 3 September 2011 - by: Mike Lofgren
The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics.

...the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West....

It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill. A couple of months ago, I retired; but I could see as early as last November that the Republican Party would use the debt limit vote, an otherwise routine legislative procedure that has been used 87 times since the end of World War II, in order to concoct an entirely artificial fiscal crisis. Then, they would use that fiscal crisis to get what they wanted, by literally holding the US and global economies as hostages....

The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism....

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner....

There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).
Folks, this is really just the introduction to Mr. Lofgren's thorough analysis, and I think it is an important rallying call for both progressives and middle-of-the-road rational folks. Game on!

P.S. If you read the full article, you may leave with a sudden sense of context for the last few decades' worth of GOP shenanigans: the Clinton impeachment, tax cut nuttiness, war-mongering, anti-gay policies, anti-immigrant policies, blatant demolition of the separation of church and state, etc. If you read between the lines, too, suddenly the popularity of Fox News and the proliferation of rightwing radio make a ton of sense. Do liberals really have the information infrastructure to compete? I guess it is up to the blogs....

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