Former GOPer: How Republicans Went Crazy, Dems Lost Their Mojo, and the Middle Class Got Shafted
Mitt Romney disembarks from his campaign plane at St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week. A multi-hued line up for next week's Republican party convention is meant to belie its image as the party of middle-aged white men.
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Bill Moyers talks with Mike Lofgren, a long-time Republican who describes the modern dysfunction of both the Republican and Democratic parties. In Lofgren's view, Republicans have become overly obsessed with obstructing President Obama, and the Democrats suffer from political complacency. Lofgren's new book is The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
Bill Moyers: The growing power of the religious right is one reason my guest left the Republican Party and became an Independent. "The mixture of politics and religion," he says, "debases both, and has turned the GOP into an apocalyptic sect." He has his problems with Democrats, too. For one thing, he says, both parties "are captives to corporate loot."
Others may share those opinions, but what gives Mike Lofgren more clout than the rest is decades of insider experience on Capitol Hill. He was a Fulbright scholar with two degrees in history when he went to work in Congress and became a senior staff member of the House and Senate Budget committees. His specialty was the cost of national security. After 28 years of government service, Mike Lofgren retired and sat down to write a powerful manifesto that took off like a rocket when it was posted on the website Truthout.org.
It's now a book: "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted." As you can tell from the title, he spares no one.
Mike Lofgren, welcome.
Mike Lofgren: Good to be here.
Bill Moyers: The title of your book is "The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy." How did Republicans go crazy?
Mike Lofgren: I think they went crazy when they started identifying Obama as the Antichrist.
Bill Moyers: Meaning?
Mike Lofgren: Meaning, "He's not a legitimate president. We must do everything we can to obstruct him."
Bill Moyers: The second subtitle, "The Party Is Over: Democrats Became Useless." How did Democrats become useless?
Mike Lofgren: I think they got complacent during the '60s, '70s, and '80s. And then finally after that period, they woke up, found they had lost three straight presidential elections. So they had to retool and make themselves more corporate friendly.
Bill Moyers: Corporate friendly?
Mike Lofgren: Absolutely. And it certainly helped Bill Clinton get elected. And while he did some good things like balancing the budget, he also unleashed Wall Street by repealing Glass-Steagall, and he signed bills that would end regulation on derivatives. So he is at least to some degree responsible for the Wall Street debacle.
Bill Moyers: And that's how, to quote a third of your subtitles, "The Middleclass Got Shafted"?
Mike Lofgren: Both parties don't really seem to care about having a vibrant manufacturing base in this country, regardless of their rhetoric. I remember throughout the '90s the Clinton administration was lobbying relentlessly for free trade deals. And the promise for each one was, it will bring jobs to America. And in every case, the jobs left.
Bill Moyers: The Republican Party now has the super rich and its corporate wing funding it and the religious right provides the ground troops. Why are so many everyday folks out there in the pews defending the prerogatives of the rich?
Mike Lofgren: That's something of a mystery. The Federal Reserve, in one of their recent reports, found that net household income fell about 40 percent since 2007. That's a tremendous drop. Yet, here we have as the nominee for one of the two major parties, we only have a binary choice in this country, is by all accounts the richest man ever to run for president and was a leverage buyout artist.