We are at an unfortunate place in America where both political sides spend more time yelling than listening. Liberals and conservatives seem content to debate amongst people with whom they already agree, without engaging the other side. Name-calling is frequent: un-American, racist, socialist, homophobe, communist. Are the children now running the fun house? Where is the restraint and civility? Good examples are hard to find.  


The best example of the type of conservative thinker we need is Joe Scarborough. He has consistently demonstrated his ability to articulate conservative views and to engage both sides in constructive dialogue. Even rarer to find, he has been intellectually consistent. Joe was conservative in 1994 when it was cool and he was elected to Congress. Joe was conservative in 2004 when it wasn’t cool to criticize the big spending GOP. Joe is conservative now in 2010 and is still talking about a cautious foreign policy, sustainable domestic spending, and calmer rhetoric. His ideas about our politicians’ lack of restraint in these three areas should be the playbook for how we articulate conservative views and sell them to the American people.


Domestic Spending – For years, Joe Scarborough has been talking about the need for real entitlement reform due to the exploding budget. The Congressional Budget Office projects the national debt ballooning to $22tn by 2019 and the Tax Policy Center just reported that 47% of Americans pay zero federal income taxes. To put our fiscal situation into perspective, that is ~$75k per person. If you are married and have two kids, your family owes $300k. That is equivalent to a mortgage on a nice home you don’t get to live in. Joe’s been talking about the need for real entitlement reform for years. The track record of conservatives doesn’t make it easy but it is time for us to lay out our plan. Our plans for restraint in how we spend our money must be articulated.


Foreign Policy – Besides George Will, Joe Scarborough has been one of the only conservatives talking about our lack of an end game in Afghanistan and tangible approaches to dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A senior intelligence official recently stated that there were only 100 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. This was at the same time President Obama was sending another 30,000 troops with broad support from conservatives. Secretary Gates recently said that Iran is a year away from developing nuclear weapons and that the US lacks an effective strategy for dealing with this. While many conservatives have supported President Obama’s surge in Afghanistan, Joe’s been calling for a description of the end game. It’s time for conservatives to lay out what our end game in Afghanistan would be and how we will tangibly deal with Iran. Our plans for restraint in where and how we deploy our troops must be articulated.


Rhetoric – Joe Scarborough is one of the few conservatives not wading in current morass of incivility. He is one of the few conservatives who actually engage both conservatives and liberals. Nancy Pelosi calls healthcare protestors un-American and the news is full of insinuations that tea-partiers are gripped with racism. Tom Coburn said that while he is in 180 degree opposition to Pelosi, she was a nice person and that people shouldn’t dislike someone because they disagree. For this glimmer of sanity, our side laughed at him. Joe is one of the only people willing to call out our side on the unnecessary rhetoric. This ability to speak with civility may be why Joe and Erick Erickson get along so well and why Erick has been on Joe’s radio show so much. It’s time for us to set a new standard in how we speak to those with whom we disagree. Our plans for restraint in how we speak to others must be articulated.


If we don’t expect more from our conservative leaders, we will never get the conservative policies we want. The financial crisis, the years of war, and the divisive rhetoric should have taught us the value of a little more restraint: in our domestic spending, our foreign policy, and in our rhetoric. America is looking for leadership and conservatives need to articulate how we will act with restraint where we haven’t in the past and where this administration has no desire to. This country can rebound and it will, but it will require conservatives willing to act with restraint and expecting it from each other. Joe Scarborough is a great example of the restraint we need.