Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left

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TrlstanC
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Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left

Postby TrlstanC » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:25 pm UTC

An insightful, and somewhat scary reflection on the state of our democracy from the standpoint of a career GOP staffer who became so disillusioned with congress that he retired. Basically, his point comes down to: democrats are rotten, they're in the pocket of special interest money, but the republicans are much worse. His claim is that the current republican strategy is essentially to undermine confidence in government, with the goal of keeping anyone who might vote democratic from bothering to vote, and leaving only a dedicated minority to pander to.

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left

If we accept his claims, then I'm pretty much left with three conclusions:
1. Both parties, and the entire system is hopelessly corrupted by special interest money
2. The democrats are mostly ineffective at getting their message out
3. The republicans shouldn't be trusted
4. It's all our fault because we let it happen

I'm actually basically in agreement with most of his points, especially the first one about the effects of special interest money, but I would've never guessed that anyone who worked in Washington for that long would come to such a bleak conclusion. I would've imagined it would be something more like "things are working as well as they should, but at least one side is better than the other."

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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby RoberII » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:34 am UTC

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.


Holy shit! A Republican comparing Republicans to fascists! Did he just Godwin his own party? Wow.

I think the power and the danger of the piece is its cynicism - it's clear that he's become a cynic, at least. But cynicism is an emotion toxic to democracy, especially in the light of the GOP's tactic of spreading the "a plague on both your houses" mentality.
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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby podbaydoor » Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:15 pm UTC

It's certainly an interesting piece. I'm impressed that this GOP operative lambasts the GOP far more effectively and pointedly than any number of liberal demagogues, considering his inside experience. I've already recommended this piece to everyone on my Facebook.
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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby KnightExemplar » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

RoberII wrote:
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.


Holy shit! A Republican comparing Republicans to fascists! Did he just Godwin his own party? Wow.

I think the power and the danger of the piece is its cynicism - it's clear that he's become a cynic, at least. But cynicism is an emotion toxic to democracy, especially in the light of the GOP's tactic of spreading the "a plague on both your houses" mentality.


Indeed. I think it is too cynical. He pretty much ends on a depressing note, without any solutions in mind. I don't really think that things are quite as bad as he's making it out to be, and he seems to look favorably on the past. For instance:
It was not always thus. It would have been hard to find an uneducated farmer during the depression of the 1890s who did not have a very accurate idea about exactly which economic interests were shafting him. An unemployed worker in a breadline in 1932 would have felt little gratitude to the Rockefellers or the Mellons.


He seems to ignore the fact that the late 1890s had the US enter the imperialist era as we fought the Spanish-American war and IIRC proved that America had international power. Furthermore, the deeply rooted hatred between the business-class and working class led up to the Haymarket Square Riots in 1886, which eventually led to an unknown man throwing a bomb at the riot police. His criticisms of warmongering and ignorance applies just as strongly to America in the 1890s as it does today.

I do find his specific criticisms against the Koch brothers and their kin somewhat interesting, but he generalizes his language to include all corporations at times. I'd say thats a bit unfair: there are always people (and groups of people) who will come up with innovative new ways to abuse the system for their own personal gain.

We can't just blame these people for our misfortunes. It is an American tradition to instead assume that these people will always exist, and change the system, recognizing that these people will always exist. Perhaps instead of depressingly attacking corporations and special interest groups, perhaps identifying the abuses and loopholes in our system is the way forward. True, a bit of cynicism is good, but lets not forget, corporations are composed of people as well. And those people are philanthropists and venture capitalists.

He also scapegoats religion and military spending. As far as military is concerned, perhaps traditional weaponry is a waste of money. China however has flexed its muscles and the US needs to keep up. Perhaps not lead the world in military technology, but I do think the Cyberwar guys have a point. Hackers have stolen technology from the US, and I bet that they'll be using that technology to build cheaper stuff outside of this country. Whether we like it or not, increasing our cyber-defenses (not really against terrorists, but from international corporate spys) would prove beneficial to this country.

I don't think the cyber-thieves are government backed. I think they're more like these guys, who try to start new businesses in China, but are too lazy to hire their own researchers to build the technology. China has no motivation to prosecute these guys (they don't have the same copyright or patent laws as us), so its really up to Americans to defend themselves. If it takes the Department of Defense to defend corporations, so be it.

Be hard on those who abuse the power, but lets not overgeneralize here. We need everyone to move forward. Yes, defense spending needs to change (and we probably did waste a ton of money in the Middle East, but too late to change that now. Gotta follow through, lest we have to do it again in 20 years). Yes, special interest groups are abusing their powers. But if our country is to improve, we need to come up with more than just cynicism and scapegoats.
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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby iChef » Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:33 pm UTC

I think people have lost sight of what fascism really is. It isn't something that is bad by definition. People throw the word around like a synonym for evil. Where classical liberalism puts the individual first, communism puts the working class first, fascism puts the nation first. The problem with all three (overly simplified) definitions is the leaders get to decide who the "individual", "workers" or "nation" is. As the famous Sinclair Lewis quote says "when fascism comes to America it will be carrying the cross and wrapped in the American flag".
It's up to us to decide how much nationalism we will tolerate in our politics. Right now I'd say both parties are drinking too deeply from that well. Godwin's Law is probably the greatest tool any hyper-nationalist has in his arsenal. As soon as you call him a fascist everyone instantly assumes you are accusing him of the Holocaust. I would call the current Republican party fascists, on the basis their rhetoric is heavily nationalistic. Every other statement is pro-America, pro-patriotism. While that in itself isn't bad, it gets ugly when we allow vapid talking heads to define what an American is. Are the Mexican-American family that just came here 5 years ago American? Are the 3rd generation Muslim family across town from them American. How about the trust fund 20 something, whose ancestors came here in the early 1700's, and thinks that communism is what this country needs to get back on its feet?
There can be such a thing as inclusive fascism. Where we define Americans as everyone in our boarders, good bad or other. Where we all work toward the common good of the nation. Which in a slightly amusing twist could be a valid definition of National Socialism. I don't feel the current Republican party is advocating this kind of inclusive attitude. It seems like they are willing to exclude many, many classes of undesirables. Which fits the mold of the current "bad" definition of fascism, making them valid targets of that label, even if no one wants to start a concentration camp.
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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby Diadem » Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:30 pm UTC

You guys already have concentration camps. The husband of one of your leading presidential candidates runs one.

But no, 'inclusive fascism' doesn't work. Because discrimination based on nationality is just as arbitrary as discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc, etc. The whole concept of nationalism is inherently bigoted. You seem to be advocating for some kind of 'open-minded bigotry', but that won't work. And even if it would work, it would still be a bad thing.
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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby TrlstanC » Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:41 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:We can't just blame these people for our misfortunes. It is an American tradition to instead assume that these people will always exist, and change the system, recognizing that these people will always exist. Perhaps instead of depressingly attacking corporations and special interest groups, perhaps identifying the abuses and loopholes in our system is the way forward. True, a bit of cynicism is good, but lets not forget, corporations are composed of people as well. And those people are philanthropists and venture capitalists.


This is pretty much what I took away too. It's a difficult message to try and get out because when he speaks honestly and openly about his opinions on how our political system isn't working he ends up sounding overly cynical. It's almost like his message would have more impact if held back a little bit, but I guess it's exactly that kind of opaqueness he's trying to get rid of. I certainly wouldn't want to be in his situation. But it's true that we can't just blame big corporations or special interests or politicians for our problems since we have a relatively straightforward way of fixing all the loopholes that they're taking advantage of. I think that organizations like Fix Congress First are on the right track. Their message is essentially "whatever issue you care about fixing, we can't fix it until we fix campaign finance first." Which at least gives us an alternative to cynicism or disillusionment. Unfortunately this message doesn't seem to be getting the attention it deserves, there's even a candidate for the republican primary that's running primarily on a platform of "keep special interest money out of elections" - Buddy Roemer but he's getting depressingly little media attention (the Daily Show might've been his biggest appearance) and even worse polling numbers.

This seems to be another case of people saying "I wish we had someone who would stand up and run a campaign based on ideas instead of huge spending and soundbites" and then promptly ignoring anyone who actually tries to do that. Which may just be an effect of the very tactics that are spelled our in this article - the government seems so dysfunctional that most people stop caring, and the people who are still paying attention are either fanatics or "low information" voters who are mostly swayed by commercials anyways.

Of course there's also the hope that one of these fake crisises or controversies that politicians are stirring up will be the one that finally backfires and convinces disillusioned voters to finally do something.

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Re: Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who

Postby Meandrgonzo » Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:18 am UTC

I think that campaign finance reform is clearly the true way out of this hopeless deadlock by forcing politicians to actually answer to the people (no not the supreme court definition of people).

At the same time however I've started to give some very serious thoughts to other solutions. For example, I've just been turned on to the idea that some countries use things like a "Happiness Index" and other similar ideas that judge the state of a nation and its progress by social factors instead of GDP. Imagine how voters would feel if one of the mainstream goals of the US government was to keep us in the top ten throughout the world in such categories as; quality of life, median income, healthcare system, etc. The fundamental failures of the government over the past few decades would have likely caused a revolution by now if serious measures weren't taken years ago.

Instead we focus mainly on GDP and our financial economy. While these factors are real and do present the state of a nation on certain terms, GDP and the financial economy lack the direct human element. Sure you could point to the unemployment rate and its current social and political effects, but if we got rid of the minimum wage and basically accepted that the vast majority of our country was essentially "working poor" the unemployment rate would likely go down, and GDP and the economy would likely rebound to some extent. That would likely only worsen our standing in many key social areas as compared to the rest of the world, but GDP and the economy would be great. China comes to mind, but I don't have any solid facts handy to back that up.

Essentially I agree that the article presents few solutions, but perhaps the missing message is that we should be looking at things differently instead of beating the same dead donkey/elephant.


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