Former Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford. AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File
Sanford's new book argues that conservatism, as it is defined by the GOP, lost its way before Trump.
He wrote, "Reality was that the Republican Party didn’t really represent conservatism anymore."
After criticizing Trump, the South Carolina lawmaker lost his primary GOP House seat in 2018.
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Mark Sanford, a South Carolina conservative lawmaker, saw the Republican Party through a critical eye long before Donald Trump became president. He explains this in his new book "Two Roads Diverged."
He wrote, "Before Donald Trump arrived in Washington the conservative movement as represented through the Republican Party had devolved to a lukewarm chaos." "Reality was that the Republican Party wasn't really conservatism anymore."
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Sanford was a member of the House during Trump’s first presidential campaign. He argued that conservatism as it was defined by the GOP was already in decline. He cited Trump's behavior on Inauguration day and linked it to the Republican Party accepting the former president's growing control over the party.
Sanford wrote that he was struck by Trump's inability to include his wife while he walked up the edge of the dais. He took in the moment, the applause of the crowd and took it all in. I watched Melania attentively, wondering what she was thinking. "I knew that Jenny, my ex-wife, and any other friend wouldn't have tolerated this."
He said, "What I didn’t realize in that moment is how Melania’s nonreaction of placid ignorance to Trump’s behavior would be mirror by millions. The party leaders didn't say a word about Trump's attempt to hijack the Republican brand as the band sang 'Hail To the Chief'. Why would they? "You can't make up what you don't have and people are generally not upset about losing what isn't theirs."
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Sanford was elected to South Carolina's Lowcountry House District in 1994 as part of the "Republican Revolution," an electoral conservative wave led by Newt Gingrich, then-Rep. of Georgia. It flipped both chambers to the Republican Party in 1994.
Sanford believed in fiscal discipline, low taxes and strong national defense. He was a firm believer and was firm in his beliefs. From 1995 to 2001, his first stint in Congress was as a member of the House. He then served as the governor of South Carolina between 2003 and 2011.
After six days of secretly visiting Argentina, Sanford went missing and was reported to have an affair with Mara Beln Chapur.
He recovered politically, and he rejoined Congress in 2013, after winning a special election for the old seat.
Sanford claimed in his book, Trump faced little resistance when he restructured the GOP to change its core values.
He wrote that there was no objection from Republican circles to Trump's changes in the Grand Old Party, as many of them believed the GOP had become a symbol for surprisingly little. "Those who believed in conservative ideals were tired of the Republican Party’s dismal efforts to advance them ideas and became disillusioned."
Trump managed to pass the 2017 tax reform bill while in office. This reduced the top corporate tax rate to 21%, and also installed a number of conservative judges on the federal bench. However, Sanford was not impressed with Trump's performance.
After Sanford clashed publicly with Trump, who called him "nothing but trouble", he lost the GOP primary to his House seat to Katie Arrington in 2018. Katie Arrington went on to lose the general elections to Democrat Joe Cunningham, in what was widely considered a major upset.
Sanford wrote in his book that, if asked about the GOP, they might answer "it stands for liberty." However, he noted that Trump's style was too autocratic to accept that answer and that his flirtations with leaders such as Vladimir Putin undermined the GOP's moral high ground regarding freedom.
He said, "Let's get down to the kitchen table and create a forward-looking list about what it means to be a Republican or a Conservative today." It could be called Barry Goldwater 2.0, a Conscience of a Conservative modern-day, or just common sense. But we urgently need a conservative conscience. And more importantly, we need to apply its timeless principles to the current challenges.
Business Insider has the original article.