Politics, like relationships, can be abstruse affairs. Most begin with a honeymoon period including a rush of excitement, delight in commonalities and that connected feeling of belonging to someone or something. But for many relationships, it doesn’t take too long before that sliding scale of love descends into the abyss of detestation. Where there once was shared experience and joy, now there are feelings of aversion. Soon that dissatisfaction turns into passive-aggressive undercurrents of disharmony, and before you know it seething tension bubbles to the surface and a divorce is inevitable.
Such is the case with Charles Joe Scarborough both in his politics and his life. Indeed, Scarborough is a veteran of divorce and this week added another link to his loving-and-leaving-infinity-bracelet – this time with the announcement that he is parting ways with the Republican Party. His declaration to divorce himself from the party came on the Stephen Colbert television show this week. Citing irreconcilable differences, Joe alleges it was Donald Trump’s “racism” that led to the breakup.
Mr. Scarborough’s relationship with the Republican Party nurtured, educated and ultimately provided him with the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. It was his metaphorical first wife, who paid for his college while working nights so they could enjoy many happy years together only to find out when the school bell rung he had run off with the Phys. Ed. teacher. And in a way, Mr. Scarborough’s distasteful break-up with his political party has been chugging down the tracks for some time now. Perhaps it is no real surprise, for, in the words of that famed TV character Sue Ellen Ewing, the wife always knows when her husband has taken up with another woman. Betrayal is often quite transparent.
But like all love affairs, Joe’s began in relative bliss.
In the mid 90’s Scarborough ran as a Republican in Florida’s 1st congressional district – that panhandle portion of Florida where no Democrat had won since the year John F. Kennedy was elected president. Indeed, Mr. Scarborough found the right time and right place to win four straights congressional races with virtually no opposition. (Timing is everything in a relationship.) Then just a few months into his fourth term, the Florida Congressman announced his decision to retire, citing his desire to spend more time with his family. This would have been with first wife Melanie Hinton and his two sons.
Apparently, that extra family time didn’t turn out well. Melanie and Joe divorced in 1999 and Scarborough moved on to wife number two, Susan Waren. A former aide to Jeb Bush, Joe had another two kids with Susan but alas they did not live happily ever after.
Still, Joe’s Republican bona fides were well intact. Originally christened one of the “New Federalists,” in reference to the original authors of The Federalist Papers, Joe was lauded by the American Conservative Union, signed Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and wanted to reverse the trend of bloated government by ditching the U.S. Departments of Education, Energy, and HUD. In fact, there were no indicators warning that Joe’s love was waning for the Republican Party as it had for Melanie and Susan.
Nevertheless, and despite a voting record that firmly established him as a conservative in the areas of foreign policy and economic issues, Mr. Scarborough was generally considered moderate in the area of human rights and the environment. Then in 2003 Country Joe debuted on MSNBC with a poorly rated show called Scarborough Country. But in cable TV poor ratings don’t necessarily cause divorce and Joe was rewarded with a new show called Morning Joe which he co-hosts with Mika Brzezinski. It is an odd marriage of sorts, he with conservative roots from the Florida panhandle and she the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski who served both Presidents Jimmy Carter and LBJ.
Nevertheless, strange bedfellows often flourish in TV Land — and as it turns out both love and hate blossomed on Morning Joe. As Joe and Mika began a love affair, it seems Scarborough’s first love — the Republican Party — began to sour with the acerbic taste of a Florida Key Lime pie gone bad. Indeed, as the Presidential Campaign of 2016 unfurled, one could see the political metamorphosis of Country Joe emerge from his Republican cocoon into a butterfly – albeit a politically Independent butterfly.
And so it seems, Joe Scarborough appears to be a man who can’t seem to stick with anyone or anything to which he’s made a commitment. His pledges come and go just like the butterfly. One wonders just how long it will be until Joe’s butterfly wings catch another breeze. My guess is that we won’t have long to wait.
Leesa K. Donner is Editorial Director of LibertyNation.com