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The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted Paperback – August 27, 2013
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“Lofgren’s ideas are trenchant and far-reaching. . . . With the feel of a long-repressed confession and the authority of an insider’s testimony, like the anti-war views of a decorated infantry officer . . . he writes about how the Republican party took advantage of a profoundly ignorant electorate, an easily conned and distracted media, and a cowed Democratic Party to press the ideological struggle in spite of the deep unpopularity of many of its positions.”
—George Packer, The New Yorker
“A fast-moving, hard-hitting, dryly witty book-length account of the radicalization of the Republican party, the failures of Democratic rivals and the appalling consequences for the country at large. Like the essay that inspired it, The Party Is Over is forceful, convincing and seductive.”
—The Washington Post
“Expect demand for this inside view of Washington, D.C., by a staffer who spent a quarter-century on Capitol Hill before publishing a screed on “America’s broken political system” at truthout.org. Lofgren criticizes Democrats . . . but his long service to GOP office-holders inevitably makes his critique of that party more detailed and fascinating. . . . A pungent, penetrating insider polemic.”
—Mary Carroll, Booklist (starred review)
“A scrupulously bipartisan diagnosis of the sick state of American politics and governance . . . Lofgren devotes close attention to budget issues rarely accorded so much detail in garden-variety op-ed warfare. Sustaining his original thesis well beyond Internet-browsing attention span, Lofgren has crafted an angry but clear-sighted argument that may not sit well at family reunions or dinner parties, but deserves attention.”
“A well-argued call for more sanity in American politics.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Mike Lofgren spent twenty-eight years in Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees. He holds two degrees in history and received a Fulbright scholarship. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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I've made it a point to read books that were written by people who have written from different vantage points -- columnists, think tankers, bloggers, former officials, news people. It's interesting to see how those authors attempt to balance their criticism to attempt to attract both liberal/Democratic and conservative/Republican readers and to avoid the shut-down response where one side jumps onboard enthusiastically and the other pans it without actually reading it. None of those books were as outspoken and specific as Lofgren's. The first 10 chapters focus on aspects of the Republican strategy or how the Republican Party has gotten to the point where they are now -- its history, tactics, selective use of the Constitution, the words it uses to fire up its base, its tax strategy (it's really all about reducing taxes for the rich ... all the rest is purposely used to distract from that main strategy), its alliance with the religious right, its media complicity, its anti-liberal fixation, and its continued dishonesty -- and all this from a Republican staffer! This focus on one aspect at a time helps to compartmentalize their positions. Chapter 11 is not friendly to the Democrats, stating that they are just as much in corporate pockets as the Republicans are and that Obama has done little more than extending many of the policies and affronts to our personal rights that Bush put in place. The main problem he has with the Democrats is that they don't focus on anything. Perhaps if the Democrats do focus in this campaign on the middle class as Carville & Greenberg propose in "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" this issue might be addressed.
As was the case in Jeff Faux's "The Servant Economy" I got a sense of hopelessness when I got to that final chapter. If you believe the expression "it's always darkest before the dawn," the chapter starts with this quote--
"As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, the commanding heights of corporate America--the banks, the military-industrial complex, corporate interests benefiting from huge subsidies like Big Pharma and Big Oil--largely have the government they want. They have the tax structure they desire. Under Bush appointee Chris Cox, the SEC's regulatory function was wrecked. The military has been so outsourced that the Army can no longer feed itself, while a policy of permanent war assures a perpetual cash flow to contractors. Federal law guarantees pharmaceutical companies the kind of collusive and monopolistic profiteering that antitrust laws were intended to prevent. Corporate America has posted record profits even amid the most protracted period of joblessness in post-World War II history. It is corporate nirvana. Under these circumstances, who needs an activist government? Now that the commanding heights have achieved their objectives, a gridlocked government will work just fine, regardless of who is in charge."
Pretty scary if this is even remotely the case. In that final chapter, though, Lofgren offers a glimmer of hope. If the money can be removed from politics, then a chain reaction of positive developments could take place. After all, Lofgren says, people put us into this unfair and unequal position and citizens if properly educated to the situation can fight our way out. Already there are positive developments like people cleaning up their debt, refusing to apply to colleges where the tuition keeps skyrocketing, and working their way out of mortgages with no help from the government.
It's pretty interesting, too, to see the early press reactions to Lofgren and how he emerged from a long, low-profile career in government to express such loud and outspoken opinions about people he experienced up close and personally. Few have branded him as a whistleblower or a troublemaker, though one reporter wondered why he sat still for so long if this bothered him so much. This may be a preview of what we may see in the upcoming 2012 election. How are the Republican moderates who are increasing pushed out of their party going to react to the extremism of the current party? Will they have had enough and vote Democratic as the better of two evils? Will there be a candidate with the resolve to do what is right rather than doing what they are lobbied or outright bribed to do? These are the questions that Lofgren focuses on that can help us as voters to think through what must happen in a long-term effort to reclaim our government.
His analysis of "paleoconservatives" on page 23 is on point, "Scratch many a paleoconservative and you will find a neo-Confederate at heart." The Republican Southern Strategy of 1968 has born the bitter fruit of turning the clock back to secessionism. While a few, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, have treasonously advocated open secessionism, the contemporary version is secession by withdrawing financially from our nation either by endless tax cuts for the rich to hollow out our infrastructure and institutions or by corporate outsourcing.
While there are similar gems throughout the book, I want to outline just a few. On page 44: "Like the biblical literalist, Republicans assert that the Constitution is divinely inspired and inerrant. But also like biblical literalists, they are strangely selective about those portions of their favorite document that they care to heed, and they favor rewriting it when it stands in the way of their political agenda."
On page 149, there is a lyrical thumbnail sketch depicting William Jennings Bryant as a sad parallel to the descent of the Republican Party into anti-intellectualism. William F. Buckley Jr. is nostalgically contrasted with the crudity of rightwing mouthpieces on page 150. And the entire career of columnist George Will is encapsulated in a sentence and a footnote on the following page.
Speaking of footnotes, nowhere in contemporary political commentary is there a more pointed and damning critique of the blindness and herd mentality of current journalism than the footnote on page 153 regarding the portrayal of George W. Bush as a regular guy you want to have a beer with.
Lofgren's assessment of Democrats as enablers for Republicans' dementia is on point. It certainly appears that the Democrats have merely moved into the ruins of policies the Republicans have abandoned as the Republicans have become increasingly extremist.
Finally in his last chapter, Lofgren has solutions that would actually work to bring meaningful change and turn government back to finding solutions to problems as opposed to endlessly drumming hot button issues. This book is superb, both funny and wise with genuine concern about the our country and its place in history.