Rumors that Mark Sanford will run for a Senate seat this Spring has us asking, “But what about his Argentinean lover?” Let’s face it. Politicians have been rubbing elbows with adultery since the nation’s founding. Thomas Jefferson — so beloved we minted him — had children by his slave mistress, Sally Hemings.
American history has less to say about Mark Sanford. He was a two-term Republican governor of South Carolina. And before that, served six years in the House. Yet in 2009, after a local reporter discovered Sanford was in Argentina with Maria Chapur, his mistress, and not hiking the Appalachian Trail as he had said, Sanford fessed up. Soon after, he left the governor’s mansion. And most thought, politics as well.
For many, this love affair is reason enough to say no to a Sanford congressional ticket. After his admission, polls showed that only 34% of the state thought he should remain in office as governor.
But Carolinians should remember that adulterers can still serve the nation well, and the world too. Each year the (Bill) Clinton Global Initiative teams up with the Hult Prize. They ask social entrepreneurs to submit their best ideas and Clinton awards $1 million to the winner. Who cares about Monica Lewinsky with Bill using his powers for good?
There is a better reason not to vote Sanford into Congress if he runs this Spring.
Were Mark Sanford still a House Representative today, he would push us off the fiscal cliff.
Bipartisanship is the biggest taboo for congressional Republicans. The Tea Party made sure of that. After Obama’s 2008 victory, Tea Party members rose from the mad-as-hell corners of America. They defeated many established House and Senate Republicans in the name of the Constitution and lower taxes. And they abhor compromise.
Mark Sanford came before the Tea Party. But South Carolina-based newspaper, The State,
reminded us that “Sanford was Tea Party frugal before it was politically fashionable.” He vetoed federal funds for a new bridge in Charleston, the second largest city. Sanford was also the first governor to officially reject stimulus funding. This occurred in 2009, a time when South Carolina had a 9.5% unemployment rate.
As governor Sanford was no revolutionary. He fell in line with red state politics.
If in Washington today, he would approach the Tea Party movement like other congressional Republicans have. They either absorbed the Tea Party’s neoconservative rhetoric or have refused to oppose it. Why else would Boehner’s “Plan B” prove unsuccessful with his own base? Grover Norquest is not the end all. Congressional Republicans would rather send America off the fiscal cliff than jeopardize their next elections by raising taxes and compromising with Democrats.
Mark Sanford’s disregard for South Carolina’s needs even extended to education reform. Sanford was convinced that the public education system would improve if students had more schooling options. In 2005 he proposed a bill that would have provided $2500 per child to parents who pulled their kids out of public schools to enroll them in private schools instead. The school voucher didn’t work the other way around. But is not shocking that a South Carolina governor would propose a bill that incentivized expensive private education, without offering reform to its free and accessible alternative. State Republicans are known prioritize private over public schooling.
Congress does not need Mark Sanford. It is already full of Mark Sanfords. Of politicians who will stand by ideology even when it is impractical, even at the expense of the American people.
Next time we consider any one for Congress we should not just ask, “What will you do for me?” This question, to some extent, is futile. Politicians will do anything for reelection. What we really need to know from Mark Sanford and Republicans who seek Congressional power, is how willing they are to serve all Americans when need be, and not just their base.
Will they reach across the aisle on economic issues even when bipartisanship is unpopular, yet necessary for financial security?
Will the second amendment come second to the 10,000 gun deaths we have a year?
Will they point out that the greatest irony of the heath care debate is that the government already subsidizes about two-thirds of Congress’ health care costs?
For the sake of America, Congress needs a new kind of Republican to challenge the gridlock we see day after day. Republicans are going to have to decide what matters more: symbolist ideologies or real people’s needs.
For now, we will be falling off that fiscal cliff. See you all at the bottom.