Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult
Mike Lofgren has left the Republican Party. He is not the first and won't be the last. Lofgren was a Republican staffer who worked in both the House and Senate Budget Committees.
He grew so disgusted by the corruption and lies of the Greedy Oil Party that he has left them...and has been writing about his dissatisfaction. From his article on Truth Out.com:
But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. 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. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But 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. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.
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...
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.
This comes from a Republican (now former Republican) insider. He saw what was going on from WITHIN the Republican Party and found it disgusting and corrupt. He also directly addresses the destructive and cynical hypocrisy of the modern Greedy Oil Party:
This tactic of inducing public distrust of government is not only cynical, it is schizophrenic. For people who profess to revere the Constitution, it is strange that they so caustically denigrate the very federal government that is the material expression of the principles embodied in that document. This is not to say that there is not some theoretical limit to the size or intrusiveness of government; I would be the first to say there are such limits, both fiscal and Constitutional. But most Republican officeholders seem strangely uninterested in the effective repeal of Fourth Amendment protections by the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus and self-incrimination protections in the public hysteria following 9/11 or the unpalatable fact that the United States has the largest incarcerated population of any country on earth. If anything, they would probably opt for more incarcerated persons, as imprisonment is a profit center for the prison privatization industry, which is itself a growth center for political contributions to these same politicians. Instead, they prefer to rail against those government programs that actually help people. And when a program is too popular to attack directly, like Medicare or Social Security, they prefer to undermine it by feigning an agonized concern about the deficit. That concern, as we shall see, is largely fictitious...
This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don't want those people voting.
You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn't look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama's policy of being black. Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some "other," who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.
It is not clear to me how many GOP officeholders believe this reactionary and paranoid claptrap. I would bet that most do not. But they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base with a nod and a wink...
I do not mean to place too much emphasis on racial animus in the GOP. While it surely exists, it is also a fact that Republicans think that no Democratic president could conceivably be legitimate. Republicans also regarded Bill Clinton as somehow, in some manner, twice fraudulently elected (well do I remember the elaborate conspiracy theories that Republicans traded among themselves). Had it been Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, who had been elected in 2008, I am certain we would now be hearing, in lieu of the birther myths, conspiracy theories about Vince Foster's alleged murder.
There is a lot more...it is a long article and represents the careful unloading of what seems like years of gradual disillusionment in the political party he had previously identified with. I suggest reading the whole thing.
Arianna Huffington is another person who made the transition from Greedy Oil Party cultist to opposing the GOP when she realized they were a bunch of liars who never actually did what they promised. She worked for Newt Gingrich and it was Newt Gingrich's own cynical hypocrisy drove Huffington away. I am no big fan of Arianna Huffington, but I respect the fact that she, like Lofgren, was able to see through the lies and theatrics of the Greedy Oil Party and reject them as one of the most destructive and corrupt forces in American politics. Lufgren is right...there is corruption in the Democratic Party as well, as I have written about frequently in regards to my own home territory of Brooklyn. But the corruption within the Republican Party, measured by comparing the numbers of politicians under investigation, indicted or convicted, FAR outweighs any corruption within the Democratic Party (see also this site for a somewhat less clearly laid out but more up to date analysis). Furthermore, many Democrats, myself included, fight to reform our own Party (to the degree of even endorsing Republican Joseph Cao in Louisiana against a corrupt Democrat). There is hardly a corrupt Republican who isn't embraced by the Greedy Oil Party and often given and maintained in leadership positions.
More interesting is the case of Pete McCloskey who was so disgusted by the behavior of the Republican Party during the Bush years that he left the party. Pete McCloskey had been a life-long Republican and a former candidate for President in a Republican primary. He himself says his family had been Republicans since before Lincoln, suggesting they were among the founders of the party. Yet the corruption and hypocrisy of the modern Greedy Oil Party drove away Pete McCloskey. Here is the letter he wrote explaining his decision:
McCloskeys have been Republicans in California since 1859, the year before Lincoln's election. My great grandfather, John Henry McCloskey, orphaned in the great Irish potato famine of 1843, came to California in 1853 as a boy of 16, and joined the party just before the Civil War.
By 1890 he and my grandfather, both farmers, made up two of the twelve members of the Republican Central Committee of Merced County. My father's most memorable expletive came when I was a boy of 10 or 11: "That damn Roosevelt is trying to pack the Supreme Court!"
I registered Republican in 1948 after reaching the age of 21. We were the party of civil rights, of free choice for women and fiscal responsibility. Since Teddy Roosevelt, we had favored environmental protection, and most of all we stood for fiscal responsibility, honesty, ethics and limited government intrusion into our personal lives and choices. We accepted that one the duties of wealth was to pay a higher rate of income tax, and that the estates of the wealthy should contribute to the national treasury in reasonable measure.
I was proud to serve with Republicans like Gerry Ford, the first George Bush and Bob Dole.
In 1994, however, Newt Gingrich brought a new kind of Republicanism to power, and the election of George W. Bush in 2000 has led to wholly new concept of governance. The bureaucracy has mushroomed in size and power. The budget deficits have become astronomical. Our historical separation of church and state has been blurred. We have seen a succession of ethical scandals, congressmen taking bribes, and abuse of power by both the Republican House leadership and the highest appointees of the White House.
The single cardinal principle of political science, that power corrupts, has come to apply not only to Republican leaders like Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and John Doolittle, but to a succession of White House officials and appointees. The stench of Jack Abramoff has permeated much of the Washington Republican establishment.
The Justice Department, guardian of of our rule of law, has been compromised. It's third ranking official, a graduate of Pat Robertson's dubious law school, has taken the 5th Amendment.
Men who have never felt the fear of combat, and who largely dodged military service in their youth, have led us into grievous wars in far off places with no thought of the diplomacy, grace and respect for other peoples and their cultures which has been an American trademark for at least the last two thirds of a century. We have lost the respect and affection of most of the world outside our borders. My son, Peter, one of the U.S. prosecutors at The Hague of the war crimes in Serbia and elsewhere, tells me that people of other countries no longer look at the country which countenances torture as a beacon for the world and the rule of law.
Earth Day, that bi-partisan concept of Gaylord Nelson in 1970, has become the focus of almost hatred by today's Republican leadership. Many still argue that global warming is a hoax, and that Bush has been right to demean and suppress the arguments of scientists at the E.P.A., Fish & Wildlife and U.S.Geological Survey.
I say a pox on them and their values.
Until the past few weeks, I had hoped that the party could right itself, returning to the values of the Eisenhowers, Fords and George H. W. Bush.
What finally turned me to despair, however, was listening to the reports, or watching on C-Span, a whole series of congressional oversight hearings on C-Span, held by old friends and colleagues like Pat Leahy, Henry Waxman, Norm Dicks, Nick Rahall, Danny Akaka and others, trying to learn the truth on the misdeeds and incompetence of the Bush Administration. Time after time I saw Republican Members of the House and Senate. speak out in scorn or derision about these exercises of Congress oversight responsibility being "witch-hunts" or partisan attempts to distort the actions of people like the head of the General Service Administration and the top political appointees in the Justice and Interior Departments. Disagreement turned into disgust.
I finally concluded that it was a fraud for me to remain a member of this modern Republican Party, that there were only a few like Chuck Hegel, Jack Warner, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins I could respect.
Two of the best, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Jim Leach of Iowa, after years of battling for balance and sanity, were defeated last November, and it seems that every Republican presidential candidate is now vying for the support of the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells rather than talking about a return to the values of the party I joined nearly 59 years ago. My favorite spokesmen have beome Senators Jim Webb and Barack Obama.
And so it was, that while at the Woodland courthouse the other day, passing by the registrar's office, I filled out the form to re-register as a Democrat.
The issues Helen (McCloskey) and I care about most, public financing of elections, a reliable paper ballot trail, independent re-districting to replace gerrymandering, the right of a woman to choose not to bring a child into the world, a reversal of the old Proposition 13 and term limits which have so hurt California's once superb education system and the competence of our Legislature, are now almost universally opposed by California's elected Republicans, and the occasional attempts at reform by our Governor are looked on with grim disdain by most of them.
From Helen's and my standpoint, being farmers in Yolo County gives us the opportunity to work for purposes which were once Republican, but can no longer be found at Republican conventions and discussions.
I hope this answers your questions about the party and a government I have served in either civil or military service under ten presidents, five Republican and five Democrat ... I doubt it will be of much interest other than to our friends, but it has been a decision not easily taken.
The Republican Party has for some time now become a party of extremists where every single reasonable Republican is driven out or silenced and corruption rules the day. It is time America recognized the corrupt Greedy Oil Party for what it is: an anti-American, destructive, greedy and corrupt organization that cares nothing for actual governance but only cares about being able to freely loot the American economy for their own personal power and gain.
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