Sunday, September 04, 2011


Mike Lofgren, a retired congressional staffer who worked primarily for Republicans (e.g., as a defense analyst on John Kasich's staff), has written a lengthy and unflinchingly accurate diatribe about the evils of the modern Republican Party (and the haplessness of Democrats) that's getting attention from James Fallows as well as from the usual suspects in the left-o-sphere. Lately there's a bit more of this on the right than I ever thought there'd be, thought there's less than there needs to be, from folks like David Frum. Are we building up to critical mass? Can we look forward to a moment when the notion that Republicans are crazy will be acceptably mainstream?

I don't see it coming anytime soon. Denunciations of the GOP, as I've said in the past, go into the political world's equivalent of a spam filter -- they're not allowed into the mainstream's in-boxes. Oh, sure, Lofgren will probably make the rounds of Rachel and Ed and Larry and Reverend Al on MSNBC, and maybe he'll be invited to address Netroots Nation next year. But other than that, what he says will be quarantined.

What might work someday is a mass defection from the GOP -- fifty or a hundred retired and current politicians, pundits, and staffers announcing in a press conference and a full-page ad that they've had it with the economic brinkmanship, the creationism, the tossing of sand in the gears of government whenever they don't get their way, and the willingness to watch people suffer and the nation crumble until we genuflect before them (all things that Lofgen's essay touches on). Maybe if, say, Colin Powell and Tom Kean and a few other media darlings led a mass, simultaneous resignation from the party, it would be enough of a surprise to cut through the "both sides are to blame" nonsense.

But that will never happen, will it? And so we go on as usual.


Lofgren's essay has to go into the filter because, briefly, he plays the incipient-totalitarianism card:

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.

I've wondered at times if that's the direction we're headed in, and I wonder it now. Do you think President Perry is going to bring general prosperity to the middle class, or even a few green shoots? Neither do I. So what comes after we elect Obama and suffer, then elect Perry and continue suffering? Aren't we vulnerable to a demagogue who tells us what -- or, rather who -- is really holding us back?

I think that, and then I think that we'll probably just go on as usual. Perry will be a one-term president. Andrew Cuomo will beat him in 2016 -- but, despite being even more business-friendly than Obama, he'll be attacked as a flaming liberal, and we'll have a new new Republican Party roaring back to make another comeback (maybe this one will be the anti-tea party, led by Jeb Bush). And we'll just keep dancing this dance forever.