Some people have tasked me for not making earlier mention of this amazing article
by former Republican staffer Mike Lofgren. It really is a must-read. Samples:
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.
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.
cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that
plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media.
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).
frank, a few readers of this very blog seem to have fallen for that very
brand of ill-informed public cynicism. Newsflash: You aren't helping
anyone but the libertarians.
There are still plenty of decent people in American political life, and
many more who want
to be decent.
cynicism" may be why there is such a pronounced overlap between
libertarianism and reactionary conspiracism. (See: Glenn Beck. See: Alex Jones. See: Morgan Reynolds.)
I've been called a conspiracist myself, from time to time -- but even on
my lowest days, I have never had anything but contempt for the sort of
paranoid weltanschauung that disallows all hope of good governance.
Lofgren touches on that territory when he goes after the fundamentalist connection:
results are all around us: if the American people poll more like
Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of
evolution versus creationism, scriptural inerrancy, the existence of
angels and demons, and so forth, that result is due to the rise of the
religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican
Party and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary or quaint
beliefs. Also around us is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and
hostility to science; it is this group that defines "low-information
voter" - or, perhaps, "misinformation voter."
also want to call them "Jesus voters." The Randroids tend to be
atheists, of course -- but, like the Israelis, they will use the Jesus
voters with a disingenuous ruthlessness.
All of which brings us back to the underfunding of Social Security, as discussed in the post above this one:
you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren't
after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of
your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts
that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be "forced"
to make "hard choices" - and that doesn't mean repealing those very
same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.
Let us turn to Matt Taibbi
, offering his own insights on Lofgren's piece.
But the time is coming when we are all going to be forced to
literally take sides in a political conflict far more serious and
extreme than we're used to imagining. The situation is such a tinderbox
now that all it will take is some prominent politician to openly
acknowledge the fact of a cultural/civil war for the real craziness to
Reading Lofgren's piece, and a piece
by John Judis of the New Republic, makes one realize that we came
pretty close to real chaos in that debt ceiling debate. Had Obama
invoked emergency powers to raise the debt limit unilaterally – and I
think he had good reasons to do that – we might have had a revolt on our
Allow me to take Taibbi's wise words into a radical direction. If we are to have a crisis, then let's have a crisis
The current "civil war" in America greatly resembles the long-simmering Monarchist/Republican "civil war" which beset France throughout much of the 19th century. It reached one crisis when a general named Boulanger came that
to mounting a coup against the Third Republic. Ultimately, he didn't
have the balls or the mental stability for the job. Nevertheless, Boulangism provided the template for fascism.
The second crisis, of course, was the Dreyfuss affair.
Maybe, God help us, we need a Dreyfuss affair of our own. Maybe we won't have resolution until we have conflict.
libertarians may wave flags and use "founding father" imagery, but
ultimately, they don't want democracy -- a fact they've made clear to
anyone with ears to listen. Democracy means that common people may want
things (such as Social Security and unemployment benefits) that
inconvenience our rulers. Sharron Angle, bless her fascist little heart,
has directly said that this is the major problem besetting America
today -- one which justifies taking up arms against the Republic. She is not an outlier: She simply said aloud what all other libertarians say only amongst their ideological compatriots.
A crisis will force the libertarians to drop the panties
and show what they have underneath. A crisis will force Americans to ask
themselves: Do you really, really want to live in the Somalia-like
hell-hole that the libertarians have in store for this country?
Afterward, Americans will want to go back to the system we had in place between 1940 and 1970 -- the days of regulated
capitalism, the days of Nixon announcing "We're all Keynesians now." The days of high growth, lower working hours, and decent lives for working stiffs.
That system was the one that divided Americans least.