After famously leaving the Democratic Party, Ronald Reagan went on national television in 1964 to deliver a brilliant distillation of his views on limited government and individual liberty in “A Time for Choosing.” Reagan gave the speech, though he knew it would be toxic among his peers and possibly hurt a nascent political career, to help long-shot candidate Barry Goldwater.
Joe Scarborough famously left the Republican Party in 2017 by going on CBS’s “The Late Show” where host Stephen Colbert teed up some preplanned questions that allowed “Morning Joe,” to the delight of a crowd of applauding automatons who couldn’t tell the difference between sanctimony and bravery, to indulge in some self-aggrandizement.
Reagan went to bed the night of his pre-taped speech “hoping I hadn’t let Barry down.” Joe went to bed the night of his pre-taped show believing that Americans enjoyed his cringe-inducing third-rate MOR protest song. “It’s one of the great tragedies of my political life that Democrats get all the great musicians,” the lead singer and guitarist for the band Scarborough had recently explained. Well, fortunately, Joe will have a chance to reverse this historic injustice when he finally registers as a Democrat.
“You have to ask yourself, what exactly is the Republican Party willing to do?” Scarborough told a nodding Colbert. “How far are they willing to go? How much of this country and our values are they willing to sell out?” This is a rhetorical question, no doubt. Still, the answer is that politicians have been selling out “our” values for many years. One just hopes that the average Republican has the decency to sell us out for more than a couple of weeks at rock star fantasy camp.
Yet, considering all his grandstanding about leaving the Republican Party–and, no doubt, many in GOP begged him to stay–an onlooker might have been under the impression that the great tragedy of Scarborough’s political life was sucking up to Donald Trump and helping legitimize his candidacy last year.
Reagan? Scarborough, who I found out today is a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, claimed, not so long ago, that Trump possessed Reaganesque qualities. “That’s Trump at his very best,” Scarborough told his audience after the soon-to-be president refused to participate in a Fox News debate. He noted that the 40th president and populist billionaire had shown “strength in a time of weakness.” It wouldn’t be the last time he made the comparison.
Before this symbiotic relationship took the convenient WWE good guy-villain turn — ratings versus fake news! — Trump was equally grateful for the fawning attention he received from his pals.
“I watched your show this morning,” Trump was taped telling Joe and his MSNBC co-host of Mika Brzezinski. “You have me almost as a legendary figure, I like that.”
“Nothing too hard, Mika.”
“Nice beautiful question, Mika.”
“This will make us all look good.”
“Exactly,” says Morning Joe.
Like most of the media, when Trump had won the primary and it was no longer useful propping him up, the duo turned on Trump. Nowadays Scarborough demands that Republican legislators — most of whom, it must be noted, have not only done less to ensure Trump’s presidency, but are also less inclined to embrace Trumpian economics than Scarborough – help overturn an election. Otherwise he will question their patriotism questioned.
Then again, Scarborough recently admitted that “Russia” wasn’t the only reason for his stunt. He’s really upset that Republicans have been trying to pass a tepid Obamacare “repeal” legislation because it’s “heartless.”
“I think maybe the last straw for me actually wasn’t Russia, it was the health-care bill,” Scarborough said at a National Archives event this week. “That kicks 25 million people off of their health insurance, and then they turn around and give tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of America.”
This is, of course, a standard liberal talking point, used in one form or another to attack virtually any Republican legislative effort to cut taxes or slow future spending. There’s nothing wrong with this line of attack, per se, but if you use it you should also have the decency to stop pretending you’re a Republican or a conservative.
All iterations of the Republican health-care reform eliminate coercive mandates and deal with future spending to some extent. Scarborough knows this, because it’s not much different from the “cuts” he consistently voted for when he was in Congress — including a “cut” to Medicare and including tax cuts for the rich (Scarborough must really have it in for old folks!). Then again, this was in the fleeting days when being a Republican and supporting economic conservatism happened to be advantageous.
Now, like me, you may never have been a member of a political party. Though, I imagine, if you cared enough to join one, you’d probably stick around to help save it from nefarious Fifth Columnists. And if you believed that your political party embodied the ideals that helped make the lives of your fellow Americans better and freer, you might feel a responsibility to stick around to try and save it.
Or perhaps your views evolved. Then you might stop casting yourself as the valiant defender of a party you no longer share values with. Then again, you probably don’t care about ratings. And this is why some people have morning cable talk shows, and others have principles.