All In   |  October 01, 2013

GOP acting like 'lemmings with suicide vests'

Chris Hayes talks with two prominent Republicans about the House GOP's failed strategy to shut down the government -- Bruce Bartlett, former Senior Policy Analyst in the Reagan White House and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy in the George H.W. Bush administration, and Michael Lofgren, a former staff member on the House and Senate Budget Committees, in that position for 28 years.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> here's what a republican said about some of his colleagues in their desperate attempt to defund obama care through a government shutdown . "lemings with suicide vest. they have to be more than just a lemming because jumping to your death is not enough. you have this group saying somehow if you're not with them, you're with obama care. if you're not with their plan, exactly what they want to do, you're with obama care. it's getting a little old." i'm a liberal, a little confession, and i'm inclined to think republicans are crossing into extreme new territory by holding up government funding after losing an election to destroy a signature piece of legislation of the country's majority party , a piece of legislation that was passed by both houses, signed by the president, deemed constitutional and extensively litigated in the last presidential election , one whose main goal is to give millions of americans access to health care . there are republicans just as perplexed as i am by the republican strategy. and let's talk to some.

>> joining me, is michael loftkin, the author of " party is over." mike, being a hill veteran and seeing a whole bunch of continuing resolution fights, budget fights, conference committee , are we dealing with normal politics or have we crossed into a different kind?

>> no, this is not the 80s. this is something new. the party that i joined was the party of lincoln, the party of theodore roose celt. the party of eisenhower. she's were patriots all. they were for one nation, indivisible. we have an insurrectionist, neoconfederate party that seems dedicated to all kinds of apocalyptic outcomes. i don't know if this comes from their fundamentalist religious outlook for whether it's just good fund-raising for them among their base, but they are no longer a normal political party . they are an insurrectionist party that is bringing down the government.

>> okay. no longer a normal political party . i have heard a lot of commentators say this. i want to play devil as advocate and check my own biasses here, bruce . we had more shutdowns between tip o'neill and the democratic congress and reagan than we have now and there's some who argue a system like we have invest minority parties with a lot of power and so this is a natural system. what do you think of that?

>> well, that's certainly true up to a point. but i think what we're really seeing here is a crisis of democracy, where one party believes its principles are so correct, so strong and the other party 's principles are so evil that we're essentially talking about god compromising with satan and you can't do that and therefore they're justified by using any means necessary to get l way, despite the fact that the majority disagrees with them. they don't think that that matters in the slightest. the truth of their principles is the only thing that matters to them.

>> mike, you said the word "insurrectionist" pip wa." i want to ask you about the evolution from a normal party to a not normal party . what is the represent tupture that creates the conditions for a party to start acting in i way curreway certain republicans, acting?

>> i would say newt gingrich 's speakership was a weigh station on i way to where we are now. but the gop as it exists now is kind of a frankenstein monster created by the twin shocks of 9/11 and the financial meltdown in 2008 . because 9/11 sort released a lot of unpleasant things in the american id, a kind of absolutism of good versus evil, a kind of totalitarian outlook. we've seen this with the nsa. and then the 2008 crash was similar to the great depression in many countries. we were lucky. we had fdr. many countries went violently to the right.

>> yeah. the twin traumas of those two crises is part of what i think forms the legacy of the breakdown in kind of institutional norms. bruce , the other way that people talk about this is the way that a combination of the big one in 2010 and the way to shape the way districts are controlled at the state level, gerrymandering and democratic divide between the house of caucus and the rest of american where the house of caucus that want the strategy don't look like the constituents that went to the poll to elect barack obama .

>> they're right. one thing i want to add to what mike said is there are deeply historical forces at work here. we talk about republicans taking over the south but actually it's the other way around and the politics of the republican party today can best be understood as the politics of the southern democrats . now, don't misunderstand me. i'm not saying that this is a racial matter. i'm just saying that the nature of the politics is the same and i've been thinking a lot the last two days about a term that you're probably familiar with called massive resistance, which was a term that was used in the 1950s to people who opposed the brown versus bored of education decision and used any means necessary, constitutional, legal, illegal, whatever it took to fight the desegregation of the public schools. and that, in that sense, the republican politics of today are the same as the politics of the southern democrats of the 1950s .

>> rejectionism, economist bruce bartley, former staffer mike lofgren.