Sanford’s South American Walkabout Through the Busch
Co-written by Danny Turkel and Michael Andrew McAdams
Oh, hey Mark Sanford. What a surprise to see you here.
Yes, in a very close race, former Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford defeated Elisabeth Colbert Busch on May 7, 2013 for the First Congressional District in South Carolina.
The seat had been vacated because of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint taking a position at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Think Tank. Governor Nikki Haley appointed House Member Tim Scott, to replace DeMint’s seat.
Mark Sanford’s previous job title had been Governor of South Carolina. It’s not unheard of for politicians to transition between various branches of government, so Sanford’s newly won House seat should be as ordinary as they come.
Unfortunately, there is that one tiny mishap where he used taxpayer funds to take a trip to Argentina to visit his mistress. Now, this isn’t the first time a politician has misused government funds or had an affair, and besides, it’s a personal matter between him and his wife. The public shouldn’t be sticking its nose in private family matters, except that Sanford did not tell anyone where he was going. For a full week, the state of South Carolina had no clue where its governor was.
Theories abounded, and many people thought that some terrible fate had befallen him. Then, one day, one of his staffers revealed that he had decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, a popular hiking destination that stretches for 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. So the guy is a bit of a nature buff, nothing is wrong with that, right? But then the news broke about Sanford’s little trip down south and the metaphorical fan got very dirty indeed. Many believed that he’d resign, or be removed from office. His wife left him, but he never left the Governor’s Mansion. He finished his term in office and most thought that would be the last we’d hear of Mark Sanford.
Then he won a U.S. House seat.
It was a shock to many who thought that Sanford’s morality would be a key factor in his defeat. One would think that the voters in South Carolina would consider it a joke that he even would consider running for office. However, his fellow South Carolinians voted him again for Congress. What were the factors that helped him win? They were certainly not his family values or honesty.
The morality of Sanford was overlooked by the electorate of the First Congressional District of South Carolina due to him being a Republican. Apparently, the majority acknowledged conveniently that he was repentant and this was sufficient for them. Is this really surprising given that many Republicans and Democrats have gotten caught lying, having questionable morality and have won elections?
Mark Sanford is a consummate politician and a showman who can turn on the charm and hit on issues that are favorites for conservatives. He was out on the stage making speeches, warming up the crowds, and talking freely about his political ideas.
Sanford targeted his campaign on government spending and ire against Nancy Pelosi, Minority Speaker of the House of Representatives-who he debated as a cardboard figure. He specifically linked Colbert Busch, his opponent, with her support of South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn, stated that she would be an ally of Pelosi, was receiving money from ‘ultra Liberals’ and had ties to organized labor. He riled up a constituency who was eager to hear his message about the consequences of electing a Liberal to represent South Carolina.
One could imagine many Southerners stating, “He is a good ole boy… and hell… and we all make mistakes. No Communist Liberal will be representing me in Congress.”
Elisabeth Colbert Busch’s platform was in line with a centrist liberal viewpoint, but she was willing to compromise on some issues with Affordable Health Care Act. She emphasized that sequester would affect the strong military presence in South Carolina and sought to improve infrastructure in the State.
Although being a sister of a comedian, Colbert Busch was no match to the theatrics of Sanford. Busch could be faulted with not getting out on the campaign trail.
While morality was an issue, one that Colbert Busch probably counted too much to gain the election, it was more important for the voters of the First Congressional District of South Carolina to elect a Republican, regardless of apparent moral transgressions.
The Mark Sanford saga illustrates a growing trend in American politics. Similar to Mitt Romney’s strategy during the 2012 election, Sanford’s tactic was to push forward as if nothing had happened and he acted like he had never even been to Argentina. Romney ran on a platform of policies for which he offered no details, and one in which he attacked his opponent for the very things that he sought to do. Romney had made a fortune off of outsourcing jobs to other countries, yet he swept that under the rug and accused Obama of wanting to outsource. The same goes for Sanford. In today’s Republican Party, as long as you toe the day’s talking points, your past doesn’t matter. It’s a kind of real-time hypocrisy, and it’s having a profound effect on Republican politics around the country.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently announced that he intends to run for president in 2016. Problem is, Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. He also happens to be a prominent figure in the Birther community. It is almost a certainty that if Cruz runs, the issue of his place of birth will be considered trivial by conservatives, even in the face of the intense criticism they leveled at the President for his (supposed) birthplace.
But, that’s the Conservative movement for you. If your opponent has something in their past that can be exploited (real or imagined), it is to be beaten like the proverbial dead horse. But if one of the flock has a skeleton, or ten, in the closet, in the closet they remain. And, if by chance one happens to fall out, well that’s gotcha journalism at its finest.