During an interview on "Moyers & Company" recently, Bill talked 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."
Here's a snippet from the transcript:
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.
The party is really oriented towards the concerns of the rich. It's about cutting their taxes, reducing regulation on business, making things wide open for Wall Street. Now you're not going to get anybody to the polls and consciously pull the lever for the Republicans if they say, "Our agenda is to further entrench the rich and, oh by the way, your pension may take a hit."
So they use the culture wars quite cynically, as essentially rube bait to get people to the polls. And that explains why, for instance, the Koch brothers were early funders of Michele Bachmann, who is a darling of the religious right. They don't care particularly, I would assume, about her religious foibles. What they care about is the bottom line. And these religious right candidates, many of them believing in the health and wealth, name it and claim it prosperity gospel, believe that the rich are sanctified and the poor punished
BILL MOYERS: Many of those people on the right would tell you that the fall in the income of middleclass people and others has been because of Obama's economic policies.
MIKE LOFGREN: I think they're suffering from selective amnesia. They also don't understand that George Bush doubled the national debt, that the original meltdown on Wall Street occurred during George Bush's watch, and by the time Obama became president in 2009, we were already well into the recession. Now I don't defend him in every way. I don't say that everything he's done is right by any means. I have all kinds of issues with him on the health care legislation. For instance, his willingness to play ball with pharma made the bill cost a lot more than it need.
BILL MOYERS: The pharmaceutical industry?
MIKE LOFGREN: Yes. That said, he was legitimately elected. We were in a very, very serious situation in this country. If the economy had fallen any further, it would be comparable to the Great Depression. So what is Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate, what is his first priority for the country? Is it getting jobs for people? Is it restoring the solvency of the financial system? Is it foreign policy? Is it any of those things? No, it's making sure Obama is a one-term president.
BILL MOYERS: It seems that some of these people are willing to see the government go down in order to win.
MIKE LOFGREN: That would be the case. I grew up in a party that believed in the traditions of Eisenhower, and for that matter, even Reagan. He raised taxes several times when the deficit threatened to get out of control. He pleaded with Congress to send him a clean debt limit extension bill without any extraneous riders on it. He knew what the stakes were.
But now it's basically obstruct. They're no longer a parliamentary loyal opposition. They want to seize up the wheels of government. And to most people that means you don't have federal inspectors of airliners. You don't have federal inspection of food safety. Your national parks will be closed. Federal law enforcement will go home. That's what that means.
BILL MOYERS: Why did you leave the party? You'd been a Republican, what, all your life?
MIKE LOFGREN: I left the party because it was becoming an apocalyptic cult. Because you cannot govern a country of 310 million people that is the greatest economic power on earth and the greatest military power on earth as if it's a banana republic. You can't govern it with people who think that Obama was born overseas or who believe in all manner of nonsense about climate change. They don't even know, apparently, where babies come from, if we're to believe Todd Akin.
Really a great interview, the full transcript is available here.