Mark Sanford: “Real, American, Man”

“I’m Cam Brady and I seductively approve this message.” – Cam Brady, The Campaign

Tuesday night Mark Sanford won a special election for the Congressional seat from South Carolina’s 1st District. The win is unsurprising on the one hand: it’s South Carolina, he’s a former governor, and the district hasn’t elected a Democrat in three decades (Romney +18 in 2012). On the other hand, this is Mark Sanford. He’s a former governor because he was run out of office after an affair. He disappeared for a few days in 2009 to fly to Argentina for a tryst with his mistress (she’s Argentine … and is now his fiancee).

I’m all for second chances, but it’s a head-scratcher to me that a man can cheat on his wife, lie to his constituents, disappear for six days (if memory serves) while serving as governor … and then win a Congressional seat four years later.

For his part, Sanford appears to have successfully “nationalized” the election – making a vote for his opponent a vote for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. In a district that went +18 Romney, this is a good strategy.

In these situations I’m reminded of the Edwin Edwards / David Duke gubernatorial election in Louisiana, 1991. Edwards was corrupt, but Duke was a white-supremacist (these are our candidates?). Edwards seized the moment with a “vote for the crook, it’s important” bumper sticker. It was a well-played admission: “I may be bad, but that guy’s worse.”

In Sanford’s case though, I don’t recall seeing any such mea culpa. Sure, he admitted to wrongdoing, but did so in a “hey this happens” sort of way. I remember his discussion in interviews about how he “fell in love” – the sort of thing people say when they have broken vows but don’t want to feel guilty about it. (When Woody Allen left his wife Mia Farrow to be with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi, he defended himself with “the heart wants what it wants.” That’s right, “hey, what can I say fellas, I fell in love with this girl; I know it’s creepy and wrong; and I know I’ve broken my wedding vows; but what can I do – I want her – it’s all beyond my control.”)

I haven’t followed the story that closely since, so maybe Sanford has had a true “come to Jesus” moment somewhere along the way. From a political standpoint though, it kind of makes Republicans look silly. Or, shall I say “southern, evangelical, Republicans” (I’d say “us” .. except I’m not a Republican) – presumably there are a few of those in District 1. They rail about  moral issues, but vote “R” no matter what … no sin is greater than being a Democrat. (Although, I do kind of see their point on that one …)

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