MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: Republican Primary Voters 'Have Devolved Into a Trumpist Cult'

By Susan Jones | June 13, 2018 | 8:02am EDT
The lower-third caption reads, "Bombastic conservative a champion of Confederate symbols." (Photo: Screen capture/CNN's "Early Start")

( - Virginia Republican Corey Stewart, described as a "bombastic conservative" in an early-morning CNN caption, will run against Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine in November after winning his Republican primary on Tuesday.

Stewart was one of two staunch Trump supporters to win in Tuesday's primaries. In South Carolina, Katie Arrington, a state lawmaker who made her support for Trump a campaign issue, defeated sitting U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary.

"Why don't we just say it has devolved into a cult. Primary voters in the Republican Party have devolved into a Trumpist cult," Trump-hating former Republican Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Scarborough noted that Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, survived what should have been a career-ending scandal when he ran off to Argentina with his mistress and then lied that he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

"Nobody said that guy would ever be elected back to Congress. And he won," Scarborough noted. Two years later her votes with Trump maybe 95 percent of the time?”

(87 percent of the time, contributor John Heilemann corrected Scarborough.)

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the hosts of "Morning Joe," frequently indulge their very personal animus against President Trump. (Photo: Screen capture/MSNBC)

Scarborough noted that Sanford, whom he described as a “real conservative,” has said “one or two things about Trump that people don’t like,” and that was enough to turn off conservative voters.

"But primary voters, like, no, no – you know what, we don't care that he's like one of the most conservative people in Congress. He said one or two bad things about Trump."

Trump, in an Election Day tweet, wrote: "Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA," Trump tweeted on Election Day. "He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!"

MSNBC contributor Jon Heilemann said, "It's clear that conservatism, liberalism, voting records, none of those things matter, it is a cult of personality, and the president has an extraordinary hold over his base. And cult of personality is one good description for it.

"The second thing is, for all of the people out there, including at various times everyone at this table and me, all of us who have sat and said, why is it Republicans are afraid of Donald Trump? Why do they -- why will they never cross him? Why he never repays their loyalty? He's terrible, he's this, he's that -- they should all have the courage of their convictions and stand up to him. This is a good example.

"Because Mark Sanford didn’t really even stand up to him. He just made a couple of snotty comments about him, and Trump brings the wrath of Trump upon the guy and he loses his job…The fact is, if you get on the wrong side of Donald Trump, his power over his base is significant enough that he can kill you, regardless of how conservative your voting record is, regardless of your history in the Republican Party. Regardless of your ideology, regardless of everything else, if he wants to put a target on your back, he can and will."

Scarborough again: The Republican Party is not a conservative party. It’s not conservative intellectually, it’s not conservative fiscally, it’s not conservative temperamentally…I wonder where conservatives go now,” Scarborough said.

Enter Joe’s fiancé Mika Brzezinski: “Well, they’re too frightened to actually express themselves. The difference between Mark Sanford and the rest of the Republican actual conservatives in the party is that Mark Sanford will be okay today. If that's what it takes, if, if he has to lose his re-election in order to remain a conservative? And stay true to the policies that he believes in, so be it. That is Mark Sanford.

He is definitely flawed, he's had his problems and he took his knocks. But I will tell you, this is the kind of conservative that is missing in Washington today. Someone who can stand up. You all will go down together, because you don't have backbones, you don't have a moral compass and you don't know how to stand up to the ideals that you say you believe in. He is.

"He's losing his re-election because of it. But he's standing up for what is right," Brzezinski concluded.

Elsewhere on Election Day, North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp won her primary, after running an ad saying: "When I ran for the Senate six years ago, I said I wouldn't vote the party line, because I don't think either party has all the answers. That's why I voted over half the time with President Trump. And that made a lot of people in Washington mad, but when I agree with him, I vote with him."

And Republican Sen. Dean Heller easily won his primary on Tuesday in Nevada, a state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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