Mike Lofgren used to be one of those diligent people who keep the rattletrap mechanism of Capitol Hill running despite its increasing tendency to throw a gear and sputter to a halt. He was a Republican, a staff member and national defense analyst for the House and Senate budget committees. But unlike most of his colleagues, he also was — and is — a literate and articulate scholar of history and politics.
With the “twin shocks” of 9/11 and the 2008 economic meltdown, Mike came to realize that the time had come to put down his oilcan and wrench, throw down the work gloves, and tell anyone who’d listen that the contraption he had so painstakingly helped maintain had become its own perpetual motion machine of mass destruction, a lumbering apparatus of greed and dysfunction. In turn, he writes that he had become “a resolute nonpartisan, and increasingly viewed all political ideologies as mental and emotional crutches, or substitute religions: for leaders, a means of manipulating attitudes and behaviors; for the rank and file, a lazy surrogate for problem solving and a way of fulfilling the craving to belong to something bigger than oneself.”
So Mike quit his job and escaped the fetid air of Washington. He wrote an essay and then a book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. That’s how he first came to our attention. Bill Moyers invited him to be a guest on Moyers & Company — twice — and the second time around, asked him to write an essay for our website on his notion of the Deep State, which he describes as “a hybrid association of key elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States with only limited reference to the consent of the governed as normally expressed through elections.”
It is, he continues, “the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism and the militarization of foreign policy, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure that has given us the most unequal society in almost a century, and the political dysfunction that has paralyzed day-to-day governance.”
That essay became one of the most popular pieces ever on BillMoyers.com, and it was the acorn, Mike says, that became the oak of his new book, Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. We’re honored to have played a role and pleased to present an excerpt, as well as Mike’s original Deep State essay and our 2014 conversation about it on Moyers & Company.