Last week, Joe Scarborough dropped by “The Late Show” to announce that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. He said that he’d been driven out by both Donald Trump and Republicans’ spinelessness toward Trump’s many outrages. This would be a big deal in and of itself, but is an even bigger deal when you consider that Scarborough was a member of the “Gingrich Gang” of 1995.
Watch the announcement here.
Scarborough, appearing alongside Mika Brzezinski, his co-host on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and soon-to-be wife, told host Stephen Colbert that he broke with Trump when he called for a ban on Muslim immigration in 2015. He was appalled that in the face of this and numerous other outrages–Trump’s amnesia about David Duke, and his racist trashing of Gonzalo Curiel, the Latino judge presiding over the Trump University case–his fellow Republicans “turned the other way.”
It led him to wonder–“How much of this country and our values are they willing to sell out?” Ultimately, he decided that he could not identify with a party that was willing to do so. When Colbert asked him if he was still a Republican, Scarborough replied:
“I am a Republican, but I’m not going to be a Republican anymore. I’ve got to become an independent.”
The deafening silence regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s apparent collusion with Russia only underscored Scarborough’s decision to leave. It showed that it was “not a party that I can associate with.” While he is still a conservative at heart–for instance, he favors lower taxes–he doesn’t want it at the price of bowing down to Trump.
Scarborough drove the point home further in a blistering op-ed that ran in The Washington Post on Monday morning. As he sees it, he didn’t leave the GOP, but the GOP left him when it “left its senses” and embraced the “amalgam of talk-radio resentments” represented by Trump.
From where Scarborough is sitting, today’s GOP is royally failing Abraham Lincoln’s basic test of political character:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
While Trump ultimately pushed Scarborough out of the party, he believes the GOP lost its way when it last held complete control of the federal government from 2003 to 2007. During that time, it turned Bill Clinton’s $155 billion surplus into a $1 trillion deficit. While Scarborough was once a fierce supporter of the Iraq War, he now believes it is a product of “a foreign policy so utopian it would make Woodrow Wilson blush.”
However, Scarborough believes that the GOP has spent every day since Trump took office making voters regret letting Republicans have full control of Washington again. They have remained silent while Trump has questioned the very foundations of our democracy, waged open war with the press, and “insulted allies while embracing autocratic thugs.” The deafening GOP silence about Donald Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower only proved to Scarborough that “neither Lincoln, William Buckley nor Ronald Reagan” would recognize it today.
Scarborough believes that the Republican Party is dying, and that Trump will ultimately tear it apart. However, he thinks that out of that wreckage will come “independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past.” We can only hope he’s right. After all, hyperpolarization is one of the biggest reasons that this country seems to be in a permanent state of gridlock.
So far, we haven’t seen any angry responses from Trump, which is surprising given that Trump has been in an all-out feud with Scarborough and Brzezinski for most of this summer–a feud that may have crossed the line into criminal behavior. After all, the official line from the White House is that Trump was simply defending himself. Then again, Trump may have given an answer of sorts when he declared that Donald Jr.’s meeting was just politics. In so doing, he may have made Scarborough’s argument for him.
(featured image courtesy State Department, part of public domain)