It's become fashionable for some conservatives to say that former Congressman Joe Scarborough isn't really
"one of us."
But Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," arguably does more to advance conservative ideas than many of the more-celebrated conservative voices in America today. Primarily this is because -- unlike those others -- Scarborough isn't just preaching to the choir.
Despite the fact that conservatives now have their own media outlets, like it or not the mainstream media still matter. And as media bias expert Bernard Goldberg has noted, while most reporters have a liberal worldview, most also attempt to report fair and accurately. For this reason, Scarborough serves a vital function, providing "insiders" with an intellectually honest and reliable conservative perspective that might otherwise go unheard.
"Joe is the conservative that all the talking heads and news producers in America wake up to," says Erick Erickson of the influential conservative blog RedState. "If Joe has a serious concern about something the Democrats are doing, then the talking heads and news producers are willing to consider that there must be something to it."
Erickson makes a vital point. While other voices are far more beloved by conservatives (for the red meat they churn out daily), Scarborough's role is arguably just as important -- and clearly more difficult. (It's one thing to be a conservative radio host who sits comfortably inside the protective confines of a radio studio, deciding which topics are worthy of discussion. But what Scarborough does day in and day out is go head-to-head against liberals -- on their own turf -- and he usually wins.)
And for his efforts Scarborough receives little positive reinforcement from conservatives.
Nevertheless, Scarborough continues to push back against liberal narratives. On Monday, for example, Scarborough mocked the Democrats' transparent attempt to change the subject of November's elections to how the Chamber of Commerce is taking "secret foreign money."
Showing a clip from Sunday's "Face the Nation," where host Bob Schieffer smacked-down Obama adviser David Axelrod, saying to him, "Is that the best you can do
?," Scarborough made the point that Democrats are pulling out this complaint just weeks before the election as a political gimmick. My guess is that Scarborough's comments will influence how other writers and pundits discuss the issue this week.
Scarborough has also helped provide a vital platform for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose toughness and willingness to stand up to his state's teachers' unions has inspired many conservatives.
Ironically, Scarborough gets in trouble for a consistent adherence to his conservative positions, and for being intellectually honest. For example, on Monday Scarborough was also critical of Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon's role in running the controversial World Wrestling Entertainment.
Many conservatives, if they were honest, would no doubt have a problem with the WWE's content, which is typically violent and often sexual. But many conservatives would be loath to criticize the GOP nominee just weeks before her election. Not Scarborough. In this case, he's not a GOP "team" player. This gets him in trouble with the right, but I would argue that his willingness to criticize Republicans gives him more credibility for criticizing Democrats.
I can't blame conservatives for being gun shy. In truth, there have been plenty of "conservative" quislings, who appear on liberal shows as mere tokens, who have poisoned the well. These so-called conservatives serve the role of "useful idiots" for liberals who want to claim their shows are "balanced." But the difference between these folks and Scarborough is that when the pressure gets tough, these folks often cave in. That's not Scarborough. He's frequently outnumbered by his ideological adversaries by a 3- or 4-to-1 ratio -- but he doesn't back down.
To be sure, Scarborough's conservatism isn't 100 percent doctrinaire, but that doesn't explain the haters. Like Scarborough, Ann Coulter also questioned the Afghanistan War -- and she even spoke to a gay group recently. Coulter's brash style has probably saved her. Too often, we put symbolism over substance. In terms of ideology, Coulter and Scarborough may be equally conservative. But he has a serious, moderate temperament, while Coulter's style is in-your-face. My guess is audiences assume Coulter's brashness equates to her steadfast philosophy.
In today's world, style often means more than substance.