Sunday, June 13, 2010

Joe Scarborough—Constructive Conservative

A recent blog post on (Is Joe Scarborough Out of Touch with Conservative Ascendancy?) questioned whether the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, former Florida Representative Joe Scarborough, is worthy of the conservative label or is merely cozying up to liberal East Coast media elites in order to sell his own watered down brand of conservative politics. In the ensuing thread of comments, there was both agreement and disagreement with this premise—some informative, some predictable.

As a regular viewer of Morning Joe, my take is that Joe Scarborough is not out of touch with conservatism at all; rather he has chosen to distance himself from the immoderate, rhetorical flame throwers who denigrate political debate. He is consistently conservative—even very conservative—on nearly every major policy issue. Yet he is cast as a kind of traitor to the conservative cause because he won't join in the profanity parade being grand marshaled by El Rushbo, Sarah Palin, Glenn (oligark!) Beck, and other masters of mayhem.

The sad part of this is that a perverse kind of litmus test is being administered by those who have come to believe they speak for the Republican Party. If you don't believe President Obama is out to destroy America, that his citizenship is suspect, that Nancy Pelosi was spawned by Satan, etc., you are simply not "one of us." The GOP is on the brink of being hijacked by demagogues—if it hasn't been already. Mr. Scarborough, on the other hand, understands that the resurgence of the Republican Party lies in its moderating influences and not in its wing nut flank.

Joe Scarborough's biggest contribution to the debates of our day lies in his commitment to civility. As an unapologetic liberal, I disagree strongly with most of his ideas. But I take from him the importance of operating from the premise that honorable debate in politics is infinitely more productive than the dishonorable practice of demonizing one's adversaries with little more than ideological vulgarities.

At this point it concerns me more that the tenor of political discourse be freed from its present state of dysfunction than it does who occupies the White House or holds a majority in Congress. When public debate is debased by intemperate rhetoric, extremists become less marginalized and more willing to offer up their own special brands of poison. That is the danger.

Joe Scarborough is just what the Republican Party needs. His voice lends legitimacy to the conservative cause. Those who disguise their bombastic rants as mere populist banter are the ones who are really out of touch. It just may take a while for them to figure it out.

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