Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Former Republican Staffer Mike Lofgren Lambasts the GOP: Republican Agenda Is to Dismantle Democracy

Mike Lofgren's recent insider statement of the ultimate game plan of the Republican party as it's presently configured--a plan he identifies as nothing less than the dismantling of American democracy--is an important document.  I encourage readers to make their way through the entire statement, which is lengthy.

Lofgren was formerly a Republican staffer in both the House and the Senate in D.C.--hence my "insider" tag for him.  He has now put critical distance between himself and the Republican party, since he sees its agenda as deliberately and decisively antithetical to American democracy, and as seriously destructive to the future of the nation.  

There's much on which I could focus in a summary statement of the document, but rather than summarize it (I do encourage readers to tackle the whole piece on your own), I'd like to zero in on several key points that struck me as I made my way through it.  First,. there's his incisive critique of the complicity of the mainstream media in permitting the Republican party to dismantle democracy and threaten the future of the nation.  As he notes, faced with the outright lies and lunacy of Republican leaders and the right-wing media that shamelessly spread the lies and facilitate the lunacy, the "respectable" media practice "false evenhandedness."

Rather than expose the lies and lunacy for what they are, the mainstream media give equal time to sane, rational commentators and crazy, dishonest ones, while claiming that they are aiming at "fairness" and "evenhandedness" in doing so.  As Lofgren notes, Paul Krugman skewers this media strategy as a "centrist cop-out" which pretends that the belief the earth is flat is on the same plane of intellectual respectability as the recognition that it's round.  (One might also note the willingness of the mainstream media to continue giving legitimacy to the notion that gay people can be "cured," long after all reputable professional medical and therapeutic groups anywhere in the developed world have recognized the scientific fatuity of that toxic religiously based  notion.) 

The media have spectacularly failed to do their job in recent years, and any of us who lived through the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and then the Vietnam era, and who remember what the media are capable of at their best when it comes to truth-telling, exposing malicious lies, and challenging maleficent power, know to what a lamentable extent the media have betrayed their charge to be watchdogs for democracy in the final decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the new millennium.

I also find Lofgren's summary of the three principal tenets guiding Republican ideology and, in particular, the way in which one of these tenets ("old-time religion") grounds all three, illuminating.  Lofgren notes that the Republican party in 2011 "really believes" the following:

1. "The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors."

2. "They worship at the altar of Mars."

3.  "Give me that old time religion."

Re: the latter, Lofgren maintains that from the 1970s forward, "religious cranks ceased simply to be a minor public nuisance in this country and grew into the major element of the Republican rank and file."  And in his view, "the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism" is, in fact, the "key ingredient" in the takeover of the Republican party by cranks intent on dismantling American democracy.  Lofgren notes that politicized religion forms the "substrate" of all three of the main tenets that now dominate Republican thinking.  

As he points out,

Televangelists have long espoused the health-and-wealth/name-it-and-claim it gospel. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God's favor. If not, too bad! But don't forget to tithe in any case. This rationale may explain why some economically downscale whites defend the prerogatives of billionaires.

The GOP's fascination with war is also connected with the fundamentalist mindset. The Old Testament abounds in tales of slaughter - God ordering the killing of the Midianite male infants and enslavement of the balance of the population, the divinely-inspired genocide of the Canaanites, the slaying of various miscreants with the jawbone of an ass - and since American religious fundamentalist seem to prefer the Old Testament to the New (particularly that portion of the New Testament known as the Sermon on the Mount), it is but a short step to approving war as a divinely inspired mission. This sort of thinking has led, inexorably, to such phenomena as Jerry Falwell once writing that God is Pro-War.

It is the apocalyptic frame of reference of fundamentalists, their belief in an imminent Armageddon, that psychologically conditions them to steer this country into conflict, not only on foreign fields (some evangelicals thought Saddam was the Antichrist and therefore a suitable target for cruise missiles), but also in the realm of domestic political controversy. It is hardly surprising that the most adamant proponent of the view that there was no debt ceiling problem was Michele Bachmann, the darling of the fundamentalist right. What does it matter, anyway, if the country defaults? - we shall presently abide in the bosom of the Lord.

Some liberal writers have opined that the different socio-economic perspectives separating the "business" wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no fundamental disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far in that direction they want to take it. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age, the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. In any case, those consummate plutocrats, the Koch brothers, are pumping large sums of money into Michele Bachman's presidential campaign, so one ought not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

And in my view, these sane and very much on-target observations about the religious substrate of Republican beliefs in general underscore how spectacularly the mainstream media have not been doing their job in recent years, since one is hard-pressed to find any informed, careful, critical mainstream media analysis anywhere of how certain religious ideas undergird Republican belief in the virtue of the rich and the right of the rich to rule the world, or how religious ideas play into the bellicosity of the Republican party and its promotion of perpetual war.  As Fred Clarkson and Chip Berlet continue to point out in one hard-hitting article after another (the latest is here, in Talk to Action) the media simply don't get and don't intend to get the role that religion plays in the Republican party right now--in the thinking of Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann and the base to whom they are playing.

And we're all paying an exceptionally high price for the media's abandonment of responsibility in this regard.  As Lofgren rightly notes, the ultimate price the Republican party intends for us to pay is the loss of our democracy and our future--and as he also notes, the Democratic party actively colludes with this agenda, through its craven refusal to challenge the Republicans and the wealthy corporate interest groups that bankroll the GOP.

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