Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) just captured the First Congressional District, which straddles the rugged coastline of his home Palmetto state. Prognosticators on the right and post-mortem pundits on the left will dish and decide the pertinent and importune elements of this race.
First, a little background, or rather, an extended summary in short of the drama that drove this race into national news.
However South Carolina has often had the rebel-streak, starting with its dalliance into nullification, when Vice President then South Carolina’s US Senator John C. Calhoun rebuffed President Andrew Jackson over the “Tariff of Abominations”. During the “irrepressible conflict” over slavery, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner excoriated South Carolina’s senior counterpart. His nephew publicly bludgeoned Sumner with a cane, received censure, then reelection. Confederate Carolina seceded firs from the Union, shortly after “Abolitionist’ Abraham Lincoln’s certified electoral win). In 1877, the Great Compromise following dispute Presidential votes in South Carolina deconstructed Reconstruction.
Today, South Carolina is a conservative, individual liberty paradise, a ruby red state where one-party Republican rule has forced cuts in spending and cuts in taxes, while marginalizing negligible pressures from unions, where minorities thrive at all levels of government. Perhaps “Don’t Mess with Texas!” should be replaced with “Don’t Press the Palmetto State!”
South Carolina is a crucial primary state for anyone running for the White House, or into obscurity. In 2000, while George W. Bush revived his campaign, then survived to the nomination, McCain never recovered. In 2012, Newt Gingrich briefly revived his Presidential fortunes, and successfully reviled the Mainstream Media’s vain preoccupation with President Obama as Messiah in contrast to Newt’s “messy” private life.
South Carolina is home to Mick Mulvaney, the District Five Congressman who trashed Congressman Henry Waxman following his unglib yet overtly flippant attitude about the GM bailouts ---- “Did GM go bankrupt?” – “I don’t know.” – “Well, it did. I am surprised that you hadn’t heard about it.” Outrageous.
South Carolina also spotlighted Mark Sanford, one of few Republicans governors who refused Obama’s 2009 federal stimulus kool-aid. Five years prior, Sanford had satirized his “conservative” colleagues in the state legislature for excessive spending. To expose his disdain, Sanford usheried into the legislature two pigs, “Pork” and “Barrel”, for legislators’ profligate ways with the taxpayers’ dollars. (Nearly a decade later, Congressional candidate Sanford wryly admitted that the two pigs were subsequently barbequed). Sanford is also on record – with libertarian columnist John Stossel, no less – for attempting to enact a statewide voucher program in a state which had the lowest SAT scores. Despite the failure of his effort, Sanford’s heart, at least in public, was in the right place.
Sanford also had a troubled private life, troubles of his own making. In 2009, while claiming to be hiking along the Appalachian trails, he was meeting with a “soul-mate” mistress in Argentina. As soon as the Latin liason hit front-page news, Sanford came clean, tears and all: “I have been unfaithful to my wife.” He had also been unfaithful with taxpayer dollars, which he used to pay for the trip. He paid it back with a hefty, $70,000 fine, the largest in South Carolina’s storied history. Following the censure of the state legislature, Sanford finished out his second term in office. His frustrated wife terminated their marriage. His political career, including a possible presidential run, was also finished.
Small business owner Nikki Haley, Indian-American of Sikh ancestry, replaced Sanford, retaining the Republican Party’s position in state politics, in spite of her predecessor’s impolitic personal life. Following her lead on limited government and limiting taxes, junior Senator Jim DeMint ended his legacy in the upper chamber of Congress to lead the Heritage Foundation. Governor Haley appointed Black Republican Congressman Tim Scott of the First Congressional district to finish DeMint’s term.
With the First District up for grabs, Sanford stepped up to represent the district which he had represented nearly two decades ago. Whether out of red-blooded redemption or red-handed arrogance, Sanford triumphed out of sixteen Republican challengers (including a primary runoff). The Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of Daily Show parodist Stephen Colbert, would challenge him for the May 7 special election.
Within days, Sanford trespassed on his ex-wife’s property to see his son, a reminder that personal failings always carry a lingering cost. The Republican National Committee hedged their funding. Democratic contributors showered Busch with cash. Brother Stephen stumped for sister on TV. Sanford campaigned harder, debated cardboard House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The outside dough plowed the Democrat’s chances. A double-digit Democratic lead shrank to “too close to call.” The voters final call: Sanford, by nine points.
To summarize the District One special election: Democrats lost $1.2 million because they could not buy South Carolina voters (so much for “the race was not a big deal to us”). All local politics is national (a tip that would tip “Tip” O’Neill off kilter). “Disgraced” Sanford proves that sin cannot stop God’s grace from standing up a fallen man to run again. Redemption is real, Republicans are rallying, and political reality trumps rhetoric once again. Sanford won in South Carolina, and so did we.