In an interview published in Politico, Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) describes himself as a “dead man walking” and explains why this gives him the freedom to be the conservative resistance against President Trump.
When he was Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford’s name routinely came up in discussions of future GOP presidential hopefuls. That was until he disappeared in 2009 and returned later with an unlikely story about hiking the Appalachian Trail alone. In truth he was in South America with the Argentinian journalist with whom he was having an extra-marital affair. Destroying his marriage through infidelity isn’t something Trump or his hardcore supporters can seriously use to discredit Sanford, but it’s the sense of having hit rock bottom that emboldens the Congressman.
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 tells me, smiling. “If you’ve already been dead, you don’t fear it as much. I’ve been dead politically.”
His 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.
Described as “professorial” and “quirky” about his conservative philosophy by his colleagues, he was bound to lock horns with Trump.
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.
Carl Blackstone, a former employee, explains that superficially, Sanford is said to have a “disdain for expensive clothing.” Substantially, Sanford was raised by a father who drilled the notion of equality into his children. Sanford is not impressed by Trump at all.
“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford asks aloud. “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”
Sanford’s concerns about Trump echo a lot of the concerns expressed here at RedState.
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.”
“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.”
Amen to that. In the short term keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House was a win for conservatives. In the long run, putting Donald Trump there, may well prove to be a negative for the movement. All the more reason we need people in the GOP to backstop Trump from sliding into the big government policies he spent much of his life supporting. But it has to be more than just Republicans who have nothing left to lose.