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Thursday, August 16, 2012 

"The Religious Right Has Destroyed My Party" Says Departing Republican Congressional Staffer

"For 28 years, since Ronald Reagan's first term, Mike Lofgren served as a Republican Congressional staffer on Capitol Hill. He was one of the many people who work behind the scenes on the nitty-gritty of governing while the politicians they work for are out making speeches and raising campaign funds.

But in 2011, after a wave of Tea Party ideologues had stormed the Hill, Lofgren had seen enough. A few months after quitting his job, he wrote that the party he had belonged to for his entire career had become dominated by “lunatics.” The big problem, in Lofgren's view, was the pervasive fundamentalist theology that had gained so much influence in the GOP over the years Lofgren served in Congress. 

Last year, he 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.


"Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. 

Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war. Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. 

Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. 

I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln."

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