Longtime congressional staffer Mike Lofgren says the main function of today’s Republic Party is to make the party’s super-rich supporters even richer. All that other culture war saber-rattling is just the bait for working Americans to vote against their own economic interests.
That’s not exactly news to most of us who follow politics and economic issues in this country, but it is remarkable coming from Lofgren. He's a former GOP operative who puts all the cards on the table in a recent interview with Truthout.
Lofgren’s new book, “The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” takes both parties to task for the decline of the middle class. But he saves much of his criticism for the GOP.
He told Truthout:
The primary purpose of the GOP these days is to provide tax breaks and other financial advantages (such as not regulating pollution and other socially costly externalities) to their wealthy donor base. All the rest of their platform, all the culture wars stuff, is simply rube bait.
These people know what they’re doing. They use a superficial populism tinged with craziness to further a rational, plutocratic agenda.
Lofgren blames much of the Republicans’ success on a complicit media and commercialized society:
Since the GOP is loath to tell the public in straightforward terms what their economic agenda is, and the media are not exactly forcing the GOP's hand, and, finally, the people are operating in a knowledge deficit, Republicans respond by sleight of hand: "We're more American than that Kenyan socialist in the White House!" Or "The Obama administration is riddled with Muslim extremists." Or "Planned Parenthood is taxpayer-subsidized murder." Or "Obama wants to take away your guns." Even "Obama raised your taxes," when in fact he lowered them.
While he credits the labor movement for the “upward arc” that led to a middle class in America, Lofgren says the movement has lost momentum in part because of a stultifying consumer culture:
[In the 1880s and 1930s] going on strike was a serious business that could get you killed. Governors routinely called out the national guard with orders to shoot to kill, and companies hired Pinkerton thugs to murder strike leaders. Yet, somehow, they got wage and hour laws, abolition of child labor, the recognition of unions, and other improvements… This movement ran out of steam. It may partly have been due to the very consumer society it created, because its fruits - particularly the electronic media - encouraged an atomization of society and a personalization of our problems and failures. Solidarity at the union hall doesn't cut it when American Idol is on.
Lofgren also points out how globalization has ended any sense of nationalism among the 1 percent:
So-called globalization resulted in our economic elites having a ready relief valve anytime workers become restive. And it effected a psychological change. Where our elites were once national, now they identify more with their elite counterparts in London, Tokyo, and Beijing than with their own countrymen of lesser means.
So what’s the solution? We need to get money out of politics:
There is so much money washing through the political system that political action through the traditional party system has been neutralized… Nothing will be solved in Congress until we get the money out of politics… But of course, doing that is a chicken-and-egg problem insofar as the current money-dominated system is designed precisely to prevent that from happening.
[But] these problems are not existential "givens." They arose because of stupidity and lack of attention, and they are amenable to solutions we can devise.
We only hope that Lofgren is right and that this party for the 1 percent will soon be over.