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Jul 292013
 

The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted

The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted

The New York Times bestselling exposé of what passes for business as usual in Washington today

There was a time, not so very long ago, when perfectly rational people ran the Republican Party. So how did the party of Lincoln become the party of lunatics? That is what this book aims to answer. Fear not, the Dems come in for their share of tough talk— they are zombies, a party of the living dead.

Mike Lofgren came to Washington in the early eighties—those halcyon, post–Nixoni

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  3 Responses to “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted”

  1. 138 of 143 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Watch out for the quiet ones …, August 8, 2012
    By 
    T. Sales (McKinney, TX) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    In “The Party Is Over” Mike Lofgren presents a very similar message to Joseph Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality” and Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein’s “It’s Even Worse than It Looks.” The difference is that Lofgren’s perspective is from working as a Republican analyst on House and Senate budget committees for 28 years. Throughout the book he tells of some of his interactions with unnamed elected officials, but primarily he focuses on specific people in government who forgot about what was for the good of the people in return for the power — Republicans like Bush, Cheney, Abramoff, Gingrich, Bachmann, the Koch Brothers and Democrats like Obama, Rubin and Geithner. (Hint – you don’t want to be mentioned in this book.)

    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…

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  2. 241 of 255 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A revealing look at modern politics from an insider, August 4, 2012
    By 
    Brian OMalley (Arlington, VA USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    The Party Is Over is excellent. Mike Lofgren is a real historian and has filled his book with terrific insights and analyses. Nowhere is there a better assessment of the fundamental axiom of Republican politics than on page 35, “that relentless attack is its own Teflon.” I suspect this book will itself be relentlessly attacked and Lofgren vilified as an apostate. But Lofgren is a genuine conservative in its traditional definition as respectful of tradition and cautious.

    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.

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  3. 83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    The Enablers, August 11, 2012
    By 
    Franklin C. Spinney (Italy) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Caveat emptor: what follows is a biased book review. The author Mike Lofgren (bio – see ref [1] below) is a very close friend of mine. I have been flogging this important new book, since I first read it in draft copy.

    Mike Lofgren, a native of Akron Ohio, is a conservative of the now forgotten Republican old school. He is more at home with the likes of Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, and Abraham Lincoln than right wing ideologues like Newt Gingrich or plutocratic highway robbers like Mitt Romney.

    Ideologically disposed readers of Lofgren’s aptly titled book may be tempted conclude he has flipped and joined the Democrats. To be sure, Lofgren is harder on Republicans than Democrats. 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 a political economy that is poisoning our culture and wrecking what used to be the greatest job engine in economic history. It would be a great mistake, however, to conclude that Mike is arguing Republicans are THE culprits. The thesis of this book is about how the Republicans and Democrats worked together to sell out the middle class.

    Lofgren is a modest, unassuming individual, who at first glance would appear quite unlikely to write such a book. He never sought the klieg lights. Nor did he ever pal around with the gucci shoe crowd to lubricate his way through the revolving door into a high paying lobbying job on K Street. Lunch for Lofgren was not at the Prime Rib or Capitol Hill Club, but a simple sandwich in a brown bag. This modesty of life style hides a principled intellectual with the character to go where his observations and reasoning take him. Moreover, a pen in Lofgren’s deft hands, when combined with his deep understanding of political history and his acid sense of humor, becomes a sharp, deeply penetrating harpoon aimed at the heart of his subject. In addition to harpooning the ravenous Republican killer whale, Mike harpoons the tired Democratic whale by demonstrating subtly, yet persuasively, how the growing “uselessness” of the Democrats evolved out of an enervating sense of being entitled to power.

    Over time, that sense of entitlement insensibly changed Democrats into what we in the Pentagon would call 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 slipping through defenses to find or create holes and weak areas for the tanks to roar thru to reap chaos and destruction deep in the enemy’s rear area. Only in this case, the rear area being ruined is the American middle class, and the flood of tanks is taken up by the flood money supplied by the oligarchs who feather their nests by buying Democrats as well as Republicans in one seamless auction.

    Put bluntly, to protect a sense of hereditary entitlement to the power that accompanied the coattails of FDR and the New Deal, Democrats abandoned their heritage and moved to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Defense, etc., and in so doing, insensibly mutated into faux Republicans. If you doubt this, look at the enervating, quasi-neoliberal bloviating by the self-inflating Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) or the cynical triangulations and warmongerings of Messrs. Clinton and Obama. The abdication of traditional Democratic 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 emergence of a new gilded age, together with the emergence of a legalized plutocracy that criminal Russian oligarchs would envy. And this mutation came about in a remarkably short time of 30 to 40 years.

    In so doing, the Democrats sold out their most important constituency, i.e., John Q. Average American, and colluded in the historic swindle that brought the great American middle class to the brink of impoverishment and debt peonage, a condition some times referred to chillingly in the tone-deaf salons of Versailles on the Potomac as the “new normal.”

    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 1999 to nullify of the Depression era Glass-Steagle Act — one of monuments of reform in the New Deal. This nullification was one of the main deregulatory “initiatives” that unleashed the greedy excesses that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown. When he left office, Bill Clinton, by the way, did not pick up his grips and retire to a modest…

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