On Republican Drift

Mike Lofgren, a now-retired staffer for Congressional Republican budget committees, has a piece on his disillusionment with the national Republican party which seems to me to be essential reading.

He is not kind to the Democrats, by the way, but he seems to see them as merely feckless. He sees the Republicans as transitioning from the more or less responsible Eisenhower model to something increasingly toxic. This sort of thing resonates with me because I agree with it — I’ve never been terribly excited about the national Democrats myself (except Howard Dean – I loved that guy); but I was raised as a Republican and think of myself as basically the same guy, but the national party has moved too far away to be agreeable.

Lofgren identifies three pillars of modern G.O.P. thought (1. Protection and enrichment of the wealthy; 2. Militarism; and 3. Religious fundamentalism) and suggests politicized religious fundamentalism as the key ingredient in the rightward lurch:

It is my view that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism (which is a subset of the decline of rational problem solving in America) may have been the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican Party. For politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes – at least in the minds of followers – all three of the GOP’s main tenets.

He traces the drift through Iran/Contra to the 1995 Government shutdown to the Clinton Impeachment to Obama birtherism. He also makes clear that he doesn’t think that racism is a critical component in the antipathy toward Obama. It’s any Democrat. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, we’d probably be hearing more about her role in murdering Vince Foster.

I don’t know anything about Lofgren. The angle generally is to promote his credibility by saying, “this guy was a Republican forever, and look what *he* thinks.” But, I expect he’s already being attacked as a RINO or with some other calumny. I have no basis for judging what axe or axes he has to grind.


  1. says

    Truthout looks like an interesting website.

    Any current or recovering Republican who doesn’t wince in recognition a few times reading Lofgren hasn’t been paying attention.

  2. says


    There is a fight for the soul of the Republican party right now, and it is the establishment vs. the Tea Party. I don’t see the tea party as for the rich, militaristic, or fundamentalist, although I am sure that Doug could find “a few” Tea Party folks who are any of those things, or even all three.

    This guy is firmly in the establishment.

  3. says

    My point, Doug, is that he is using some standard Democrat talking points, ones that are effectively demolished elsewhere and really need no reply.

    I mean, Lakoff? Really?

    The reason you like this thing so much is that they’re the same Democrat talking points that you revel in.

  4. says

    Last I heard, the Tea Party was just a bunch of white trash, racist, homophobic retirees that are all completely Social Security and Medicare dependent. Or was that just sensational misreading of poll data to suit an anti-Tea Party media/political agenda?

  5. says

    Nope, they are all fiercely independent advocates of limited government. You saw them everywhere clamoring against the Iraq War on the grounds that it cost too much and no one had a plan for funding it.

  6. Don Sherfick says

    Andrew: I wonder how many folks stop to analyze what they mean when they use the term “white trash”. Yes, I’ve heard that the term may have originated among blacks themselves in another era. But “trash” is a perjorative, and a pretty bad and dehumanizing one at that. When one in the majority has to put “white” in front of it, is there not an inference to the effect that “trash” and “non-whitness” are usually connected, so one uses that qualifier “white” to refer to those exceptions to the general assumption?

  7. Doug says

    Not that I’m an authority, but I’ve never had the sense that “white trash” carried the implication that trash was customarily to be found among non-white people.

  8. Don Sherfick says

    Nor apparently do a number of folks until they are asked to reflect on it and are asked to think about what the person of color (especially black) really is thinking when an otherwise well meaning white colleague uses the term. I think you’ll find that there are more black folks who take umbrage but simply don’t say anything than you might think. Proof of the pudding would be to invite those people to comment.

  9. Doug says

    That’s an age old debate – what’s more important in the calculus of giving and taking offense: the intent of the speaker or the perception of the listener?

    My general policy is that, as a speaker, if I know a particular phrase causes offense, I’ll try to avoid it; generally it’s no skin off my nose. However, on the rare occasion that avoiding offense would unnecessarily abuse the language, I’ll probably risk offense.

    As a listener, it’s pretty much a “sticks and stones” policy.

  10. Don Sherfick says

    I meant to add that one seldom, if ever, hears the term “black trash” used…….and maybe some reflection on why not is is order.

  11. says

    What does “for the rich” even mean?

    As for Doug’s trope about the Iraq war, how about this. David Henderson is a hard core libertarian economist, one who is about as anti-war as you can get. He got a warm reception at a Tea Party rally while saying things that you might expect him to get booed over.

    I think that the Tea Partiers might be receptive to anti-war arguments based on cost. For example, Henderson says that ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and closing every single military base outside of the US proper would save $500 billion per year. That’s a compelling number, I think, one that certain Tea Partiers would embrace.

  12. Doug says

    When a Republican President proposed spending a huge wad of money on an unfunded war, these folks, by and large, didn’t get worked up. What worked them up was when a Democratic President proposed spending a wad of money on health care. (Leaving aside, for the moment, projections that health care reform will ultimately reduce costs.) Only then were deficits a burning concern.

  13. says

    I can’t let this go without comment:

    I was raised as a Republican and think of myself as basically the same guy, but the national party has moved too far away to be agreeable.

    Ex-Presbyterian (right? I might have your branch of WASPiness mixed up, you Protestants look all the same to me ;) ) and ex-Republican. That is not uncommon. To what extent are they related, and to what extent is this about your religious hangups? I wonder if you were still a practicing mainline Protestant, if you would still be a Republican.

    A lot of uncomfortableness with Republicanism is uncomfortableness with Christianity. This is why Jews are not Republicans, for sure.

    My problem with that is that, in the national party, there are plenty of non-Christian alternatives. Romney, for example. Ron Paul. Huntsman. Gingrich.

    Yes, there is a fundamentalist wing of the party. But that is just one faction of a multifaceted party.

  14. says

    Only then were deficits a burning concern.

    The deficit was going down from ’03 to ’08.

    Funding the Iraq war wasn’t a concern until the financial crisis. Things are different now.

  15. varangianguard says

    So, are you saying that all that money we’ve poured into Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 couldn’t have possibly made a difference had it been spent here instead?

    Mormons aren’t Christian? That might be difficult news for many Mormons to accept.

    Perhaps more non-Christians might find the Republican party more attractive if more Republicans actually followed their purported faith?

    Unfortunately, your “multi-faceted” party all shows the same face, no matter which “facet” one seems to be looking at.

  16. paddy says

    “My problem with that is that, in the national party, there are plenty of non-Christian alternatives. Romney, for example. Ron Paul. Huntsman. Gingrich.”


  17. paddy says

    “I wonder if you were still a practicing mainline Protestant, if you would still be a Republican.”

    Not the person you were questioning, but I am pretty a staunch practicing mainline protestant and not a republican. In fact, I believe that there is a decent chunk of my congregation (30ish%) that aren’t aligned with the current republican party either.

  18. Doug says

    I was raised Presbyterian. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that my departure from that church and disillusionment with the national Republicans were caused by the same or similar underlying factors. But, I don’t think one is a direct cause of the other.

  19. says

    I probably should have said “non-fundamentalist” rather than “non-christian”.

    Romney is running as a businessman, not a fundamentalist. I don’t perceive the other guys I mentioned as fundamentalist, either.

  20. Joe says

    “I wonder if you were still a practicing mainline Protestant, if you would still be a Republican.”

    I’m a practicing conservative Christian who feels the Republicans left me.

    And, now that you mention it, the longer I’ve been Christian, the less Republican I have become.

    But that’s just me.

  21. Joe says

    By conservative Christian, what I meant to say is that I belong to a church that is generally regarded as such.

    I mean, Eric Miller of Advance American was allowed to come in and do his thing on the pulpit.

    Not that I enjoyed that, all that much.

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