Disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who took a detour to Argentina while hiking the Appalachian Trail, is back. Sanford is running for Congress in a special election. Interestingly, one of his opponents is comedian Stephen Colbert’s sister.
When Sanford left office, his chances of being elected to anything were slim. As often happens, scandals that appear to ruin political careers are sometimes forgotten. While no one is forgetting Sanford’s trip to see his mistress in Argentina, Sanford is still expecting forgiveness. His biggest argument for that forgiveness is that God already has forgiven him.
“I’m not in any way unaware of how I’ve let you down. I’m not in any way unaware of my well-chronicled failings as a human being,” Sanford told a Hilton Head Island Republican group last week, in the first public speech of his campaign. “But I am equally aware that God forgives people who are imperfect.”
That forgiveness is supposed to be based on some contriteness though. While Sanford admits he let people down, he is planning to marry his Argentine girlfriend. Somewhere in that process, God is supposed to have granted his forgiveness. Sanford’s concept of forgiveness sounds more like an excuse for doing what he wants and not having to change it.
If Sanford wasn’t bringing God into the equation, his personal life and choices would be his own business. As a politician, what he says and how he justifies life is important because he will be making laws affecting other people.
The Charlotte Observer interviewed Sanford on his return to politics. Once again, Sanford addressed his mistakes with the insistence that something God-like has evolved from it.
“I thought my time in politics was over. That was a chapter of life, and I had moved on,” Sanford said in the interview. “I’m not saying it was God-ordained or anything like that, but a series of rather miraculous events have coincided here. … Is there bit of trepidation? Absolutely. But at some point you listen to the voice inside and listen to those you care about the most and you make a decision, and this is the one I’ve made.”
God…miraculous events…it looks like the theme for Sanford’s campaign is being formed. He is going to run as the God-ordained candidate. He might even win. Yet the irony, or better the hypocrisy, of running as a moral, god-fearing candidate is hard to swallow. However, none of us should be surprised if he finds enough South Carolina voters to fall for that line.