Republican Mark Sanford has a unique sense of liberation that empowers him to speak his mind about a president he considers to be a danger to democracy.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is not your usual politician. A former Gov. of South Carolina, he currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives – a position he previously held from 1995 to 2001.
He is probably best known for his one week disappearance and extramarital affair with Argentine television journalist Maria Belén Chapur back in June of 2009. In the immediate aftermath, he resigned as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association and managed to survive impeachment proceedings on the 9th of December, 2009. Then, as The State reports, on December 16 the full House Judiciary Committee voted 15–6 to censure Sanford for “bringing ‘ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame’ on the state, its citizens and the governor’s office,”formally ending efforts to oust him from office.”
Politico reports in a 2017 interview that Sanford “appear[s] to have been forgiven by the people of South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, who sent him back to Congress in a 2013 special election before re-electing him in 2014 and 2016.”
As Tim Alberta, Politico’s national political reporter explains, “All this gives Sanford a unique sense of liberation to speak his mind about a president whose substance and style he considers a danger to democracy.”
“I’m a dead man walking,” he told Alberta, adding: “If you’ve already been dead, you don’t fear it as much. I’ve been dead politically.”
Unlike most Republicans who are cautious in their criticism of Trump, Sanford took that sense of liberation and spoke his mind in a February 2017 interview.
As Politico reports:
[Sanford’s] digs at Trump cover the spectrum. The president, Sanford says, “has fanned the flames of intolerance.” He has repeatedly misled the public, most recently about the national murder rate and the media’s coverage of terrorist attacks. He showed a lack of humility by using the National Prayer Breakfast to ridicule Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Most worrisome, Sanford says, Trump is unprepared for the presidency.
Continuing to present background, Politico adds that:
Sanford’s opposition to Trump, then, was somewhat inevitable. When a chorus of House conservatives took turns fawning over the GOP nominee after a meeting with him last June, Sanford made a point of mocking Trump’s constitutional knowledge. (“Somebody asked about Article I powers and what he would do to protect them,” Sanford told reporters. “I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. Of course, there is no Article XII.”) When party officials began marginalizing the issue of tax returns after the convention, Sanford wrote a New York Times op-ed calling Trump’s unprecedented lack of transparency “something our country cannot afford.” And when his colleagues returned to D.C. infused with optimism after the Republican ticket’s November 8 victory, Sanford privately warned them to brace for disappointment.
Sanford is a stickler for detail, as Politico explains, and has “long been renowned for a work ethic that straddles the line between tireless and maniacal.”
“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford ponders aloud to Politico, adding that “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”
“I believe in a war of ideas … and I tell the staff all the time: Look, we’re in the business of crafting and refining our arguments that are hopefully based on the truth,” Sanford explains to Politico, adding: “Truth matters. Not hyperbole, not wild suggestion, but actual truth.”
Politico continues their report, writing that “What concerns Sanford on a fundamental level—’the danger’ of Trump’s presidency, he says— is that ‘historically there’s incredible deference to the presidency from the party in power.'”
He understands the reluctance of rank-and-file Republicans to criticize a president who “has a proven record of taking people down.” But, he says, there must be a muscular check on Trump from somewhere inside the GOP. He was encouraged to see Speaker Paul Ryan push back on him throughout 2016, but equally disheartened to see him willingly subjugated after the election results came in. “I admired his conviction in the campaign,” Sanford says of Ryan. However, he adds, “at the end of the day, radio silence is not sustainable in being true to yourself.”
Concluding the portion of his report on Sanford’s opposition to Trump, Alberta describes him as “a lonely, lucky-just-to-be-here voice of dissent in a party hijacked by Donald Trump.”
“You want to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I’ve learned that through my own trials and tribulations,” Sanford says, one of numerous nods to the Appalachian Trail episode. “But if you see a pattern of over and over and over again, wherein facts don’t matter and you can just make up anything … ” He stops himself. “Our republic was based on reason. The Founding Fathers were wed to this notion of reason. It was a reason-based system. And if you go to a point wherein it doesn’t matter, I mean, that has huge implications in terms of where we go next as a society.”