Here was a man, I felt, that was going to be able to be a figurehead of Libertarian values moving forward over the next four years. Given his personality, I wasn't sure how, if at all, he would be able to handle the national stage, and so I had been biding my time in really getting behind him, though have often received emails from members of DraftSanford2012 dutifully keeping me apprised of his actions.
What attracted me to Sanford was his level of commitment to his personal and political values and his staunch refusal to act politically in any manner that was not in the long term best interests of the people of his state. I fought to remain quiet over the last week amid stories of his disappearance, and was ultimately left saddened and discouraged yesterday upon the announcement of his affair, effectively his political death.
As we conservatives and libertarians hold ourselves to a higher level of personal responsibility than do liberals (see Kennedy, Edward and Clinton, William), it is only fitting that we now cast this man out as a possible representative of our values. There will be no apology made, no eloquently spun explanation of how he is only human, on behalf of Mark Sanford's repugnant weakness, merely only the hope that he finds a way to come to terms with his struggles and to live out a decent personal life from this point on.
Politically speaking, we are left to carry on the mantle of conservatism and libertarianism for the time being without a potential star. Reihan Salam eulogizes:
Back in 2002, when he was first elected governor, Sanford was the darling of D.C. libertarians. As one of Newt Gingrich's foot soldiers in the House of Representatives, he acquired a reputation as a budget-cutting cheapskate who, with his friend and ally Ron Paul, constantly railed against pork-barrel spending and the overweening power of the federal Leviathan. Despite his small fortune, Sanford slept in his congressional office. And his tightfistedness extended to the running of his first gubernatorial campaign, when he reportedly hunted for loose change and haggled over office supplies. His enthusiasm for school choice and firearm ownership also won him kudos from the right wing. But Sanford's total inability to play nice with the legislature stymied his most ambitious efforts, including a long-term plan to roll back South Carolina's state income tax.
All the same, Sanford's libertarian bona fides were real. In March, Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote a fascinating profile of Sanford that, on close examination, could have killed his presidential ambitions then and there. Sanford railed against the Federal Reserve; when asked about Michael Phelps’ arrest on drug charges, the governor rolled his eyes. And he seemed to be launching a critique of the Bush Doctrine when he told Dougherty, "I don't believe in preemptive war," a categorical statement he later inched away from in a rare bout of political cowardice. For me, though, the most telling part of the profile came at the end, when Dougherty noted Sanford's total lack of interest in University of South Carolina basketball and his inability to use basic sports metaphors. Given the macho cast of American conservatism, this might have proved a fatal flaw. His recent public weeping won't help matters.
As Sanford slinks away from the public eye, antiwar libertarians have lost their best hope of building a national movement. The 2008 uprising of Birchers, hippies, and raw-milk enthusiasts that fueled Ron Paul's quixotic bid for the White House was looking for a leader, and Sanford seemed to fit the bill. Now he'll instead spend his days doing who knows what—he'll write a book or play golf or maybe smoke a bowl while cradled in the arms of some dark-eyed South American siren. Which, when you think about it, doesn't sound that bad.