May 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Mark Sanford won a Congressional run off election last night, fairly handily 54-45. The Democrats sunk $1 million into this race, obviously hoping to kick start a return to power in the House next year. Mark Sanford is a despicable character, having committed adultery and lied about his whereabouts while gallivanting around South America with his whore. Odds are he’s a sociopath, so of course he’ll fit in well in the halls of Congress. While there’s no doubt that had the Democrats pulled off a win last night they would be crowing about Nancy Pelosi returning to the Speaker’s chair next year, this election was about Mark Sanford and nothing else.
We’re talking about a crimson red district, not a swing district in any sense of the term. The question was whether enough Republicans could stomach voting for Sanford for no other reason than they want a Republican representing their district rather than a Democrat. With a much larger base, the Republicans were easily able to get enough voters to the polls. Let’s not fool ourselves about Congressional elections. While we’re voting for individuals, the reality is that 90%+ of the time they’ll vote with the party they’re part of. As such, we’re really voting for a party rather than an individual. In a Republican district, even a sleazeball like Sanford will win because there are enough people who want the district represented by a Republican.
Had Sanford lost it would have only been because enough Republicans couldn’t stomach voting for him. Yours truly would have been part of the group sitting the election out. The focus here is on Sanford rather than national policy though, which is why neither party should view these results as tea leaves for 2014. If there is one thing that seemed to galvanize Sanford voters it was his attacks on Nancy Pelosi. That’s about as national as this race got. Fear of Pelosi returning to power seemed to convince a red district to vote for someone they don’t particularly care for. If there’s one lesson the Republicans can take from this race it’s that demonizing Pelosi pays dividends.
Would this lesson even apply to a swing district? It’s hard to say. Republican voters detest Nancy Pelosi, probably more than Obama. Crimson red districts can be convinced to vote for a sociopathic serial adulterer when he attacks Nancy Pelosi, so perhaps such attacks will solidify the base in a swing district. While there is perhaps a lesson to be learned from the Sanford victory, we should in no way view his win in a red district as a sign of what’s coming next year. It just wasn’t that kind of race, it couldn’t be with someone as sleazy and controversial as Mark Sanford on ballot.
Conservatives really need to do a better job of making sure people like Sanford don’t win primary elections. How many times have we lost in primary battles because two or three conservatives split 60% of the votes among themselves while the moderate cruises to victory? We do more to hurt ourselves by now bowing out of primary races for the greater good. Sanford’s primary win is a good example, there are a number of others including Michigan’s Governor’s race in 2010. If we want to change Washington, we have to not be quite so self absorbed and arrogant in primary races. We’ll end up with more Sanford’s as long as arrogant conservatives refuse to back out of races which split conservative votes. If there’s one overriding lesson to be learned from yesterday’s Sanford victory it’s that.