I’m hearing mixed reports today on the fate of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Some news outlets such as Politico and various radio stations in both Georgia and South Carolina are insisting that impeachment proceedings have either been formally dropped by the South Carolina legislature or will likely not go forward, while the Los Angeles Times and others are reporting that a resolution calling for Sanford’s impeachment is expected to be filed.
Either way, the damage to Mark Sanford is done. He is a lame duck executive in the Palmetto State. His marriage is likely doomed. His excuse of “hiking the Appalachian Trail” has become a well-known and oft-used euphemism in American political culture, and his surreal admission of marital infidelity will forever be etched in the minds of those who live and breathe politics on a national stage.
Sanford will not be one of those politicians who rebound from infidelity, despite the fact that unlike others like Bill Clinton and John Edwards, he eventually came forward and admitted the inconvenient truth. There will be no rebound. And it’s sad. He was a fantastic voice when it came to matters of fiscal responsibility. He understood the people when it came to matters of disillusionment with government. And, as we’ve learned, he was quite the poet.
There’s a lesson to be learned here, and not just the broad-stroke lesson of “be faithful to your wife, you imbecile.” It’s that Republicans and conservatives are indeed held to a higher standard, and that involvement in the American political process should be looked at as a commitment and a public service, not a cheap ticket to influence and power. When matters of morality are at the center of a candidate’s candidacy, he or she had better have lived those promises, or else they’d better just not bother even getting involved.
It’s no secret that I’ve resigned myself to a future in politics, just as soon as I pay off my astronomical student loans. I’ve made my mistakes in the past with booze, with women, and even with a little California glaucoma medicine during college, but along with my transformation from ill-informed liberal to common sense conservative-libertarian I’ve grown up a bit. While I have enough of an independent moral center to never rely on consideration of a future in politics to determine my everyday conduct, it is certainly a factor in other extrinsic concerns.
The fact is, even aside to adherence to the values intrinsic in my faith, I just don’t want to be an embarrassment. I don’t want to be that guy who drags his reluctant wife up to a podium in front of clicking shutters and whirring videocameras. I don’t want to be that guy who “had so much potential.”
Sanford should be absolutely ashamed of himself. And from what I’ve known about him, I have no doubt that he is. But regardless of whether the impeachment proceedings go ahead, his remarkable story should serve as a lesson to the rest of us willing to serve: keep your nose clean, keep your pants zipped, and for God’s sake, keep off of the gosh-darned Appalachian Trail.