Joe Scarborough’s ignorant anti-socialism exposes the hazards of conservative ideology
Anyone who has seen Morning Joe over the past week has repeatedly been delighted by self-proclaimed Conservative host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, who ridiculed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as “a great government socialist.”
Why does Scarborough use this most politically charged and provocative name for DeSantis?
Well, it was really a moment of political opportunism for Scarborough to beat up socialism for complete ignorance of what socialism is.
However, Scarborough’s anti-socialist talk was not only ignorantly characterizing socialism, but also, oddly enough, attuned to this pandemic moment in such a way that the dangers and backwardness of conservative ideology were actually exposed and clarified, with the petty government and constitutional elements clearly highlighted, racism, sexism and enable other repressive authoritarian policies.
What Scarborough called “socialism” was DeSantis’ statewide anti-mask mandate, which prohibits corporations, schools, organizations – anyone and any corporate body – from wearing masks on their premises to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus to prevent. Scarborough went into town on DeSantis, mistaking top-down government stupidity for socialism. He scolded:
“Sounds like a socialist to me. When you are a state governor and corporations, small businesses, say they can’t run their business the way they want to keep their business safe, just as they think they can keep their business safe, and stores even if you inform the local school authorities and forbid them to take safety measures in their own areas.
Florida is like five different states. So go tell someone in Broward County, a local Broward County school board, they have to do the same thing they do in Walton County, ten hours, twelve hours away, it’s just a ridiculously big government, one size fits all socialism. It makes no sense.”
First, let’s start with the medical stupidity and small-mindedness of Scarborough’s hate speech from a political point of view.
To say the obvious, we are dealing with a highly contagious and transmissible virus. The virus knows no local borders, and it is undeniable that one of the greatest obstacles to dealing with the virus in the United States has been the refusal of individual states – and individuals – to face the reality of the pandemic and take enforcement action or even encourage behaviors and guidelines (tests, vaccinations, masking, distancing) that would collectively protect us from the virus and contain, if not prevent, its spread.
In fact, one big reason the nation didn’t contain the pandemic is precisely because we haven’t had a nationally coordinated effort and unified policy across all states so that governors in states like Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas are licensed to endanger the rest of us.
Scarborough’s logic is precisely what enables the anti-vaccination movement and, frankly, movements to undermine democracy, undermine legitimate racism and sexism, and deprive voters of the right to vote.
In fact, Scarborough’s logic undermines the basis not only for a nationally coordinated approach to dealing with the pandemic, but also for maintaining democracy, suffrage and civil rights.
Scarborough introduces this local government rights argument just as much-needed legislation is in the making in Congress that would create federal law to protect the suffrage of voters across the country from Republican state parliaments clamoring to to do this not only to restrict access to voting, but also to enable state legislators to determine the outcome of elections independently of the votes cast.
Would such federal action, which supports and defends democracy, constitute “great government socialism” for Scarborough?
Were the civil rights and electoral laws of the 1960s necessarily passed and enforced at the federal level because some states wanted to uphold racial injustice and segregation, including “Big Government Socialism”?
The advance of the conservative ideology in support of state rights has in the past been an attempt to enable states to preserve racist and sexist cultures and societies at the local level.
As I wrote for PoliticusUsa last week, our founders imagined democracy as asking citizens not to act out of narrow self-interest but out of a sense of the common good. They did not envision democratic freedom as one that would allow any small business, school, community, or even state to do what it wants, regardless of its impact on others in the nation.
But that is exactly what Scarborough’s conservatism demands.
And his portrayal of socialism, a political economy in which everyone shares in the collective fruits of social work and recognizes their interdependence, is simply absurd.
There is not enough space here for a full discussion, but I refer readers to Albert Einstein’s 1949 essay on socialism, which provides an important glimpse into the problems we face today. He could actually have written these words today:
I have now reached the point where I may briefly indicate what, for me, constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It is about the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more aware of their dependence on society than ever. But he does not experience this dependency as a positive good, as an organic bond, as a protective power, but as a threat to his natural rights or even his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the selfish drives of his makeup are constantly accentuated while his naturally weaker social drives progressively deteriorate. All people, regardless of their position in society, suffer from this process of decline. As unwitting prisoners of their own egoism, they feel insecure, lonely and deprived of their naive, simple and unsophisticated joie de vivre. Man can only find meaning in life, as short and dangerous as it is, if he is devoted to society.
We have seen an escalating individualism in the nation that negates every sense and concept of the public good, precisely because we have not recognized our dependence on one another, our mutual dependence on one another. The failed and chaotic response to the pandemic, particularly in the red states, underscores this breakdown.
Einstein’s socialist perspective requires that we recognize the reality of our interdependence. Scarborough’s conservatism, which knows so little about the socialism described by Einstein, denies it and harbors dangers for a healthy democratic society.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published many scholarly and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association .