During Monday’s edition of Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough and his panel predicted that the Republican Party will be “reduced to dust” if it continues to stand behind President Trump amid the government shutdown. After calling him a liar, Scarborough asked “why does this party continue marching over the cliff like lemmings behind a guy...whose approval rating is about 40 percent on an issue where 75 percent of Americans oppose the President?”
After Scarborough finished his rant about the “phony wall,” panelist John Heilemann claimed that “the Republican Party at the intellectual, moral level has already been reduced to dust.” Heilemann then attempted to answer Scarborough’s question: “the concern of a lot of Republicans is they can see that Trump is driving them off the cliff but they look at the short term and they fear not the general election in 2020 but they fear the potential that Trump and a Trump-backed candidate could primary them and beat them before they even got to November.”
Heilemann summarized the Republican Party’s support for President Trump as the result of “fear, panic, cowardice (and) stupidity” before predicting Republicans’ thinking will change when they make the calculation that “it costs them less to leave Trump than it costs them to stay with Trump.”
Scarborough then tried to argue that “Donald Trump actually is a shrewd Democrat that wanted to destroy the Republican Party…he could not have created a more effective political virus to tear through the GOP and rip it to shreds.” Earlier in the conversation, Scarborough had talked about “the historic rout of Republicans in November,” apparently forgetting that Republicans picked up two seats in the Senate, and lost a smaller number of seats in the House than Presidents Clinton or Obama did in their first midterms.
If anyone knows anything about a Democratic plant, it’s Scarborough, who finally left the Republican Party after spending a decade trashing the party from his perch on MSNBC. Just weeks after praising the “Obama recovery,” Scarborough tried to paint himself as a Republican purist when it comes to “balanced budgets, less debt, (and) a smaller government,” ideas that the Obama administration definitely did not support.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Monday’s edition of Morning Joe is below. Click “expand” to read more.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Again, we know Donald Trump’s a liar, and we’ve known he’s been a liar and we know that he’s lied about immigration, we know he’s lied about the wall, we know he’s lied about all of the statistics, we know he’s ignorant about how people become citizens.
JOHN HEILEMANN: Yeah.
SCARBOROUGH: We know all of that.
SCARBOROUGH: I ask again the same question after the historic rout of Republicans…
SCARBOROUGH: …in November as I asked before the historic rout of Republicans in November, and that is why does this party continue marching over the cliff like lemmings behind a guy…
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: That’s what I don’t get.
SCARBOROUGH: …whose approval rating is about 40 percent on an issue where 75 percent of Americans oppose the President? 75 percent of Americans don’t want the government shut down for his so-called phony wall. What…what comes next? At what point does Mitch McConnell say, hey you know what, maybe we don’t want to lose ten Senate seats in 2020? Maybe I don’t want to have to retire in 2022 early because I don’t want to be Minority Leader for the rest of my life.
SCARBOROUGH: When does that happen, John? It’s got to happen soon or this Republican Party is reduced to dust.
JOHN HEILEMANN: Right. Well, let’s be clear. I think the question you’re asking illustrates the fact that the Republican Party at the intellectual, moral level has already been reduced to dust. It’s not a question of whether it will be, it already has been. And this question that you have been asking we have been talking about now for, you know, at least the last year or so, illustrates exactly the point. The party is…the reason that they continue to follow Donald Trump is very simple, it’s really straight forward, it’s fear. And the fear is the fact that they believe that President Trump continues to dominate their party, that his approval ratings within the Republican Party are sufficiently high that if they were to deviate from his course, however suicidal it is in any given instance, is that they will pay a price within the party. Mitch McConnell is a good example. Mitch McConnell is…sits every day and worries about all the long-term things you’re talking about but in the short term what Mitch McConnell worries about is getting primaried in 2020. What happens if Mitch McConnell turns against Donald Trump? Mitch McConnell wonders, in a state like Kentucky, where Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is north of 80 percent. That’s Mitch McConnell’s main concern, that’s the concern of a lot of Republicans is they can see that Trump is driving them off the cliff but they look at the short term and they fear not the general election in 2020 but they fear the potential that Trump and a Trump-backed candidate could primary them and beat them before they even got to November. Is that fear, panic, cowardice, stupidity? It’s all of those things but it is the thing that I think has been the governing dynamic in Republican politics for the last year. When will it change? It will change when they start to look at the math and the math changes enough that it costs them less to leave Trump than it costs them to stay with Trump, in their judgment.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I must say, if a Democrat had concocted…well, actually Donald Trump was a Democrat for most of his life. But if a Democrat…
SCARBOROUGH: Let’s, let’s just say Donald Trump actually is a shrewd Democrat that wanted to destroy the Republican Party…
SCARBOROUGH: …he could not have created a more effective political virus to tear through the GOP and rip it to shreds…
SCARBOROUGH: …and have people afraid to stand up and fight for the values, Elise Jordan, that the Republican Party always stood for. Our Republican Party, the reason I went to Washington, to fight Democrats is because I believed in balanced budgets, less debt, a smaller government, a strong, unified defense against Russian aggression and against Chinese communist aggression. These were, these were the basics that we all believed in, that held us all together. Now well, I didn’t even talk about free trade. Now, none of this is part of what the Republican Party stands for anymore. Donald Trump has undercut every single one of those first principles of the Republican Party and now it’s about fighting for a phony wall.
ELISE JORDAN: Well, it’s just amazing to me how many truly big government Republicans there are in the party. And after, you know, about eight years or so during the Obama years of hearing about cutting the deficit, cutting the budget, cutting spending, you have Republicans who really just seem to not care at all about the ballooning deficit. I think that the turning point for Trump, you know, John is talking about how his popularity somewhere like Kentucky is at over 80 percent with voters, the turning point is going to be if the economy really takes a nosedive and if we go into a recession. You look at how things have been fairly steady, but Donald Trump’s, the unpredictability is not helpful to the overall economy. And does it look like 2019 is going to be a year where Donald Trump is going to be a purveyor of steadier policies and is going to calm down his rhetoric when it comes to the Fed and other economic matters, I think that’s doubtful. And so I think that so the economy goes, a lot of those Republicans finally go too because plenty of Republican voters will forgive Donald Trump for pretty much anything as long as the economy is doing well. But when the economy goes, so they go.