Former U.S. Congressman Joe Scarborough sees an America fractured by ideology and swimming in the kind of debt it may never pay off.
But the conservative thinker and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program still has hope for the kind of real change needed in this country.
Scarborough’s new book, The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America‘s Promise, lays out the case for that optimism. The book details where the conservative movement went astray over the last decade as well as where it needs to go.
A realist might disagree with some of the book’s predictions, but Scarborough’s faith in the American people shines through in every chapter of his new tome. All it takes is a return to conservatism’s roots, he argues, namely the pillars promoted by the likes of William F. Buckley and President Ronald Reagan.
The latter’s sunny spirit and ability to politely engage his ideological foes stand as the biggest lesson for today’s GOP. It’s also the hallmark of Scarborough’s text.
The author pulls few punches here, saving most of his harshest critiques for his own ideological soul mates. He blames Republicans for following President George W. Bush even when he strayed from his conservative principles. By putting party above all else, the GOP doomed itself — and possibly the country.
He’s also fed up already, with some of the outrageous policies instigated by President Barack Obama. The new president’s campaign spending excesses alone should have drawn far more outrage from the media and public alike.
But Scarborough treats both presidents with respect. This isn’t a name calling screed. Leave that kind of content to talk radio and cable news outlets. There’s little time to waste to save the country, and Scarborough respects both the former and current presidents enough to realize they’re trying to do the right thing.
He’s just here to tell them when and where they aren’t.
The current economic crisis is a prime example of how both parties worked against the country’s better interests all in the name of a quick fix. He uses a personal anecdote — how he recently bought a home he couldn’t afford — to show how the country’s housing market helped sink the economy at large.
And even when a few brave Republicans saw where the economy was heading, they weren’t courageous enough to stand their ground and battle the forces pushing the country over the economic cliff.
Some of the wisdom served up here flies in the face of conventional conservative wisdom.
The conservative movement needs to embrace a practical brand of environmentalism, Scarborough writes. Such a position will help re-brand the party and, much more importantly, spark an economic renaissance while getting the U.S. out from the clutches of oil-rich nations like Iran and Venezuela.
Should America perfect a car battery that reduces fossil fuel dependence, it not only could free us from foreign powers but spark our economy for decades.
“No country is better poised to dominate the coming technology-driven century than Americans,” he writes.
Conservatives should also reconsider the pre-emptive war doctrine established by President George W. Bush. Scarborough wishes the party had stuck to the Powell Doctrine, a philosophy that cautions against military force but ultimately impels the country to use all of its might once the call to arms begins.
And conservatives who live and breathe based on their positions on social issues may want to reconsider that tact, especially if they want to win future elections.
“The party that is seen as being the ‘aggressor’ on such social issues will continue to pay a price in national elections,” he writes.
Conservatives shouldn’t abandon issues like abortion, he says, but rather tone down the volume and be “uplifting instead of angry.“
The book’s bleakest chapter may involve the nation’s entitlement trap, a situation each administration acknowledges and then delays for his or her successor to tackle. Voters demand the truth about Medicare and other programs, even if it means dramatic reforms are in order.
Scarborough liberally draws from his political experience to anchor his opinions. He battled President Clinton on a number of fronts, all the while learning what makes the Inside the Beltway crowd operate.
He also admits to being seduced by the very same Beltway spirit that compromised his former colleagues. He was too willing to play politics rather than stand up for his core beliefs.
Today, he stands outside the arena, allowing him to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each party and deliver the best advice possible.
The Last Best Hope represents that approach, a philosophical call to arms which embraces the core tenets of conservatism while acknowledging the political realities that ideology must compete with to win back his fellow citizen’s hearts and minds.