Mike Lofgren leaves ‘the cult’

Before this morning, I’d never heard of Mike Lofgren. But James Fallows explained that Lofgren recently retired from a lengthy career as an esteemed Capitol Hill staffer. Fallows characterized him as a respected, knowledgeable figure.

And with this in mind, it was rather striking to read the lengthy piece Lofgren wrote for Truth Out, published yesterday with this headline: “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult.”

To be sure, this Republican aide is not at all a fan of Democrats. But he also believes “nothing … 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 Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy. […]

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.

Let’s just note, again, that this isn’t the assessment of some wild-eyed lefty. The author is a long-time Republican aide, respected by those who’ve worked with him, who’s worked for nearly three decades with GOP policymakers.

And he’s convinced Republicans have succumbed to madness.

Also note Lofgren’s take on the contemporary Senate.

The only thing that can keep the Senate functioning is collegiality and good faith. During periods of political consensus, for instance, the World War II and early post-war eras, the Senate was a “high functioning” institution: filibusters were rare and the body was legislatively productive. Now, one can no more picture the current Senate producing the original Medicare Act than the old Supreme Soviet having legislated the Bill of Rights.

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself. […]

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…. Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy [emphasis added]

Have I mentioned that Lofgren is a veteran Republican staffer who knows exactly what GOP policymakers are thinking because he’s worked with them closely every day for 28 years?

There is one great overwhelming dilemma that dominates American politics in this early part of the 21st century. It is not the extent to which President Obama has failed to meet the expectations of the progressive base, though this matters. It is not the lazy, negligent, and incompetent establishment media, though this matters, too. The issue that should dominate the landscape is the radicalization of the modern Republican Party and the effects of having one of two major political parties descend into madness.

For much of the American mainstream, there’s very likely an assumption that voters can choose between a center-left party and a center-right party, because this assumption was generally accurate for several generations. It’s past time for the mainstream to realize this is simply no longer true. Those who have any doubts should apparently talk to Mike Lofgren.