A recently retired Congressional staffer has published, in an essay entitled, “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” his take on the metastasizing disaster in Washington. As James Fallows describes the author, Mike Lofgren*,
[His] name is barely known to the general public, but among people who have covered or worked in the national-security field, he is a familiar and highly esteemed figure. He spent 28 years as a Congressional staffer, mainly on budget matters, mainly in the defense-and-security realm, and mainly for Republican legislators.
Lofgren spares neither party:
Both parties are rotten – how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot. The main reason the Democrats’ health care bill will be a budget buster once it fully phases in is the Democrats’ rank capitulation to corporate interests – no single-payer system, in order to mollify the insurers; and no negotiation of drug prices, a craven surrender to Big Pharma.
Having fingered money as the root of political evil, Lofgren criticizes the Democrats mainly for failure to stand up to the Republicans, on whom he heaps the vast majority of the blame. In the Senate, for example,
in the World War II and early post-war eras … 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. [emphasis added]
Lofgren quotes John P. Judis:
Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority.
The disorder is no accident:
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.”
… [these] tactics … are important indicators of an absolutist, authoritarian mindset that is increasingly hostile to the democratic values of reason, compromise and conciliation.
… If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America’s status as the world’s leading power.
* In the interests of transpartisanship: Fallows’s blog entry begins with a video that denounces President Obama’s “‘conciliatory’ and ‘reasonable’ approach, [which,] far from being wise and strategically far-seeing, has proven to be simply weak and vacillating.” Incidentally, the video calls—at 5:55—for a Democratic “Coffee Party.”