Readers beware; what follows is a biased book review. The author Mike Lofgren (bio) is a very close friend of mine, and, as some of you may may already know, I have been flogging his important new book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. Mike is a conservative of the now forgotten old school, more at home with the likes of Robert Taft, Eisenhower, and Lincoln than right wing ideologues like Newt Gingrich or plutocratic highway robbers like Mitt Romney.
Casual readers of Lofgren’s aptly titled book may well conclude that he is harder on Republicans than Democrats. In a technical sense this is true. Having served on the Republican staffs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, he was in a much better position to observe and understand their hijinks than those of the Democrats. So, it is not at all surprising that his book has more detail describing how the ideological Republican crazies created the current political-economic mess that is poisoning our culture and wrecking our economy. But it would be a great mistake to conclude that Mike is arguing that the Republicans are THE culprits. This book is about how the Republicans and Democrats worked together to sell out the middle class.
The author is a modest, unassuming individual, who at first glance would appear unlikely to write such a book. He never sought the kleig lights. He never hung out with the gucci shoe crowd to pave his way into high paying lobbying job on K Street. Lunch for Lofgren was not at the Prime Rib or Capital Hill Club, but a simple sandwich in a brown bag. This modesty of life style and demeanor hides a principled intellectual, who has the character to go where his reasoning and observation take him. And a pen in Lofgrens deft hands, combined with his deep understanding of political history and acid sense of humor, becomes a sharp, deeply penetrating harpoon aimed at the heart of his subject. In addition to harpooning the bloated degenerate Republican whale, Mike harpoons the Democrats by demonstrating subtly, yet persuasively, how their growing “uselessness” arose out of an enervating sense of entitlement to power.
That sense of entitlement mutated Democrats into what we in the Pentagon would call THE ENABLERS of Republicans. The Democratic enablers unwittingly played a crucial role in the demolition of the American dream, not unlike that played by infiltration troops in blitzkrieg. Infiltration troops soften up the front by wiggling through defenses to create holes and weak areas for the tanks to roar thru and reap chaos and destruction in the enemy’s rear area. Only in this case, the rear area being ruined is the American middle class and the role of tanks is taken up by the flow money supplied by the oligarchs who feather their nests by buying Democrats as well as Republicans in one seamless auction.
Put bluntly, to protect their sense hereditary entitlement to the power bequeathed by the coattails of FDR and the New Deal, the Democrats abandoned their progressive heritage and moved to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Defense, etc., insensibly becoming faux Republicans. If you doubt this, look at the enervating, quasi-neoliberal ramblings of the self-inflating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) or the cynical triangulations and warmongerings of Messrs. Clinton and Obama. Their abdication of progressive principles gave Republican crazies more room to get even crazier, and together the faux Republicans and the real crazy Republicans reinforced each other to create a rightward shift in the American political dynamic that unleashed the evolution of a new gilded age, together with the re-emergence of a plutocracy that Russian oligarchs would envy. And this happened in a remarkably short time of 30 to 40 years.
In so doing, the Democrats sold out their constituency and colluded in the historic swindle that brought the great American middle class to the brink of impoverishment and debt peonage.
If you think collusion is too strong a term, I would urge you to think about Bill Clinton’s (the DLC’s choice for president in the 1992 election) collusion with Republicans in the nullification of the Depression era Glass-Steagle Act in 1999, which was one of the main deregulatory initiative that unleashed the excesses that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown. Clinton, by the way, did not pick up his grips and retire to a modest house in Independence Missouri like Harry Truman; he chose instead to join the plutocratic elite where he is now well on his way to becoming a card-carrying member of the one-tenth of one-percent club of the mega rich. The bottom line: the Democrats’ sense of entitlement and the consequent corruption of their progressive principles has been a necessary, if not sufficient, cause of the of the current political-economic mess that is destroying what is left of the middle class in our good ole USA. It would be a great mistake to allow the hilariously disgusting Republican hijinks in Logren’s masterpiece brand it as an anti-Republican polemic and miss his main message.
Mike, of course, states clearly that his subject is how the madness of the Republicans and the uselessness of the Democrats reinforced each other over the last 30 to 40 years to hose the American People. It is the degenerate nature of this symbiotic relationship that is his and should be the Left’s call to arms.
I do not count on this happening. I expect the faux Republicans will try to exploit the embarrassment of riches in Mike’s book for a narrow short-term political advantage, in yet another demonstration of the hypocrisy that is a consequence losing mentality.
In closing, I ask readers to think the fact that this laudatory review of The Party Is Over appeared in Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine, not some Democratic rag trying to get leverage in the coming Presidential election. That should be taken by the Left as an example to emulate. The real question in my mind is whether progressive counterparts to the American Conservative will use Mike’s call to arms to summon the curiosity and the courage to explore the ramifications of Lofgren’s subtler analysis of the “enablers” of decline.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org