If there's one thing worse than a GOP sex scandal, it's a Southern GOP sex scandal!

Does the scandal involving a womanizing southern governor shed any light on the GOP's "Southern Strategy"?

While nearly everybody agrees that what Mark Sanford did was wrong, positions as to what the consequences should be are all over the map.

Victor Davis Hanson described himself as baffled:

I am somewhat baffled by the reaction to this week's news. Take poor Governor Sanford. The only excuse for the hysteria over his trip could be possible use of state funds for personal travel, or taking vacation time without logging it in, or unauthorized leave. All are serious breaches of professional conduct.

But "adultery" during a separation? This entire popular culture transcended fornication years ago when it decided that tampons, Viagra, and Extend were fair game for commercial television. Our children know more about sexuality than our grandparents.

Can one think of very many politicians who were not guilty of some sort of adultery-Ted Kennedy? John Edwards? Bill Clinton? Newt Gringrich? Rudy Giuliani? John McCain? In a California governor's race or during the Presidential primaries the oddity is always the non-adulterer. I am being descriptive not sermonizing.

Our greatest icons-Jefferson, JFK, FDR-at times conducted private affairs in a manner that this society would have sensationalized, a society that in fact is far more tawdry and without the decorum of the past.

I don't know the circumstances of the Sanford marriage, but the notion that a culture that has deified sex, only to become "shocked" in Casablanca- like fashion that an official would reflect contemporary values is surreal. If this were 1910 or even 1950, I too would be shocked; but once our culture chose to elevate sex to Olympian status, why does it insist on Plymouth Rock reactions to the logic result of its own values and emphases?

I don't know why, but I find myself wondering whether the reaction would be different were Sanford the governor of a Northern state. There's a certain regional bias which creeps into these things, and it wouldn't surprise me if Northerners consider him more of a "hypocrite" for being a Southern adulterer than they would were he another mere Yankee womanizer. Factor in the man's Republicanism, and in some minds, it's as if Jerry Falwell himself had been caught in bed with a prostitute. There is nothing fair about it.

Anyway, I do not agree with the idea that Republicans should "kick Mark Sanford to the curb." That only perpetuates an idea that the left loves: that Republicans have to be held to a higher standard than anyone else.

Let me repeat a question I have asked repeatedly:

How the hell did sex get put on the f---ing left?

Really, since when are centerfolds images of cultural and political leftism?

What is logical about doing that? How did it happen?

There was a time in this country when most cities had red light districts, and in many places prostitution was legal. In Alaska this past June, I visited Dolly's House, the last of Ketchikan's Creek Street brothels, before prostitution was made illegal in the late 1950s. That's not all that long ago; I was a kid. Brothels and prostitution are an American tradition. They are also a classical tradition; the Pompeiian brothels are a much bigger tourist attraction that Dolly's House. When something is both traditional and classical, it deserves a tad more respect than it gets from the people who attack it in the name of "tradition," but I don't want to seem argumentative, so I'll avoid the inflammatory word "values."

Anyway, while I recognize that people disapprove of prostitution and gay sex, I think it is a huge mistake to declare that this is modern political conservatism, and that the Republican Party stands for such disapproval. It's just plain bad political math, as all the Democrats have to do is nothing, and occasionally admit they're human if they get caught having sex. (The unnoticed irony is that the Democratic Party has plenty of people who are just as deserving of the "erotophobe" title as Republicans.)

One of the reasons it's bad math is that sex -- whether practiced by Republicans or Democrats -- is absolutely guaranteed to occur. While the vast majority of people agree that adultery is wrong, politicizing it by saying that the Republicans are really really against adultery (more against adultery than anyone else) distorts all reality.

If the Republicans are more against adultery than everyone else, it does more than merely set them up for a fall. By putting them on a high horse, it makes ordinary people want them to fall. For some reason, the Republicans do not understand the basic, anti-elitist, populist mindset at work here. It's why people sympathized with Bill Clinton. Not because they really sympathized with or "approved" of what he did. Few thought what he did was OK (despite the charges many moral conservatives made at the time). What they objected to was the scolding, and it is important to understand that not liking scolding does not equate with approval of the conduct in question.

Nor is the American distaste for scolding not limited to sexual scolding. People don't like being told they are wasteful and should cut down on driving, cut down on flying, change their lightbulbs, neuter their pets, ride bicycles, stop eating certain kinds of foods -- even if they already agree with the premises of the advice. I couldn't help notice that the Democrats were smart enough to put the kibosh on Al Gore during the recent cap-and-trade push. That's because they know he comes across as a scold, and had he been wagging his finger about Global Warming right now, it might have turned off enough people to generate a backlash in the form of angry calls to congressman, with predictable consequences in a precariously close vote.

Oddly enough, Republicans are perceived as less scolding on most of the lifestyle issues, but for some reason, the narrative that the GOP is the anti-sex party is a very stubborn one.

What I'd like to know is whether this is regional, and why. Is there a GOP Southern strategy that involves sexual morality? While I think it's a bit arrogant to make assumptions about people based on geographic regions, the fact is that the GOP does a lot better in the South than it does in the North, especially the Northeast.

I grew up in the Northeast, and over the past decades I've watched as many Republican areas I knew well gradually went Democratic. What shocked me the most was to see this happen among people I'd call old guard traditional Republicans. The reasons are many, but the process accelerated under Bush, and I think regionalism played a big role. It was all too easy for these people to hate what they called "the religious right," because that was considered a Bible Belt sort of cultural thing. There was nothing rational about it, and it accelerated as the GOP under Bush (whose Southernness struck many a Northeast Republican as phony) abandoned economic conservatism. Affluent country club types, wealthy older women, double income professionals -- the kind of people who could once be depended upon to vote Republican in order to preserve what they had, now saw little difference between the two major parties. Bill Clinton's triangulation strategy had helped too -- and it wasn't missed that a Southerner had seemingly thumbed his nose at the anti-sex religious mindset which supposedly dominated his area and which the Republicans now courted.

To illustrate the state of chaos and disrepair, just look at the fates of two long-time Republican Senators from my former area. Rick Santorum, a solid social conservative, was solidly rejected. The remaining Republican, Arlen Specter, fled his own party. Yet still (despite gloating on the left), a number of analysts think the GOP is not dead in the Northeast:

Pennsylvania Senate: Specter (D)(I), 41 - Ridge (R), 48
New Jersey Governor: Corzine (D)(I), 36 - Christie (R), 47
New York Governor: Paterson (D)(I), 32 - Guiliani (R), 53
Connecticut Senate: Dodd (D)(I), 42 - Simmons (R), 43
Delaware Senate: Biden (D), 34 - Castle (R), 55
New Hampshire Senate: Hodes (D), 41 - Sununu (R), 46
Connecticut Governor: Bysiewicz (D), 32 - Rell (R)(I), 53
Ridge? While polls showed him beats Specter as well as Toomey, he now says he won't run against Toomey, thus apparently leaving it for Toomey to lose against Specter. As to Ridge, he refuses to say whether he'd vote for Toomey or Specter. The angry discussion between commenters at that last link highlights (IMO) some of the problems faced by moderates and libertarians in the Republican Party.

Judging from his past, I'd put Toomey in the GOP's anti-sex camp, but he's recently written a fairly ringing endorsement of the big tent approach.

While I don't especially like Northeast Republicans, I think the GOP has to come up with some sort of Northeast strategy. Social conservatism is a hard sell there, and if it is perceived as anti-sex scolding, the result is counter-scolding when sex occurs. Fascinatingly, what appears to be happening with Sanford is that he's being scolded by the anti-sex scolds as well as the counter scolds, and this creates a cycle: the more he's scolded by social conservatives, the more he'll be counter-scolded by social liberals.

I can only imagine what the RINOs are saying about him in the Northeast.

My "Northeast Strategy" was to leave. I'm glad I moved to the Industrial Heartland, where (if I may change the subject slightly), representatives voted 41-48 against cap and trade.

The Northeast, OTOH, voted a whopping 66-7 for the bill, while the Interior South voted 16-60 against it.

What on earth could be up with that?

Is cap-and-trade a kinky sex practice or something?

As I'm saying, the GOP needs some kind of Northeast strategy.

MORE: Not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I just remembered something which might shed some light on the Northeast's penchant for kinkiness.

As he wondered about the disappearing nature of the "fierce moral urgency," Glenn Reynolds quoted Roger L. Simon on cap-and-trade:

All of a sudden... well, not quite all of a sudden, but recently... I have noticed my liberal friends (except for the most extreme and knee-jerk) are not very interested in discussing man-made global warming. The subject rarely comes up and, when it does, it is passed over quickly, given only a nod. It's as if that was last year's - or last decade's - fad, at the very moment the House of Representatives has been browbeaten by LaPelosita into voting for a cap-and-trade bill no known person has read, let alone understood.
I read that the bill is over 300 pages long. Just why did the Northeast vote overwhelmingly for it?

Doesn't this just begs the question of what sort of perversions are buried inside? I say, it just has to be chock full of pornographic pork.

Can anyone prove it isn't?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and a warm welcome to all.

Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric on 06.30.09 at 12:17 PM


My feelings about the Sanford mess are the same as they were for the Larry Craig deal - get rid of him. Not for adultery, not for any sort of "sins" committed, but simply for rank stupidity.

A politician who stands up and in the loudest voice possible screams "I'm a dumbass" should be let go, not rewarded.

guy   ·  June 30, 2009 3:03 PM

It must be full of give-aways to the people who will benefit from the trade in credits, probably already established firms. The gov and industry are in this together to rob the public.

Remember, all legislation in the past 50 years has been designed to benefit incumbents and established industry, and to eliminate start-up competitors. Can you say General Electric? They even got TARP dough because they bought 2 banks in Utah for fucks sake.

Follow the money, dude. The people who trade this shit live in Jersey.

dr kill   ·  June 30, 2009 3:09 PM

"A politician who stands up and in the loudest voice possible screams "I'm a dumbass" should be let go, not rewarded."
- - - - -

Tautological answer. If no one cares who's bumping uglies with who, it's not dumbass to get caught doing it. Your idea of "dumbass" likely differs from Joe's and Sue's and mine. To me, the pol who stands up and professes that humans will perform valuable and productive work without incentive other than love for their fellow man screams "I'm a Dumbass!" much more profoundly (and convincingly) than the one who gets caught with his member in his zipper.

bobby b   ·  June 30, 2009 5:16 PM

Most of these companies that you claim are ripping off the public are public companies. So, buy lots of their stock, and tell your friends to buy lots, because if they really are ripping us all off to their incredible profit, that incredible profit will just come back to you, the public.

Similarly, if you hold that all of the missing money in the health care area is being siphoned off by insurers, buy their stock.

Except, really, their stocks aren't skyrocketing - which ought to tell you something about the value of your information.

bobby b   ·  June 30, 2009 5:20 PM

Cool post, just subscribed.

How I Make $300 a Day Posting Links Online   ·  June 30, 2009 6:07 PM

No, no, no. The Bill is NOT 300 pages long. That's just the amendment to the bill introduced the night before...at 3 AM. All together the damn thing is closer to 1600 pages. And no one has read it yet because parts of it are still being tweaked.

How can you, in good conscience, vote on something you've never seen, let alone read? Every one of those in the House who voted for this POS should be looking for a new line of work come January, 2011.

joated   ·  June 30, 2009 7:17 PM

Joeted, the legal system holds citizens to a standard that "ignorance of the law is no excuse."

I joke about these things, but I think that when legislators pass laws they have not read it ought to be an impeachable offense. Any law passed under these circumstances should be declared unconstitutional.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 30, 2009 7:54 PM

bobby baby, your paras are too confusing for this country boy. Are you waiting for your unicorn or not? Is that how Wall Street works?

dr kill   ·  June 30, 2009 9:17 PM

I certainly haven't read the bill, but I'm hoping it's going to greatly increase the price of carbon credits.

Since my family owns about 500 acres of timberland, this could be a way for us to pay for the increased taxes, gasoline, and heating/cooling costs.

I just hope we break even.

For those of you who don't own forests... there's probably not any good news in this bill for you. Frankly it's not even good news for forest owners as they are going to have to jump through lots of hoops to see a likely minimal amount of money from this.

Now... about southern politicians. For years it's worked out fairly well that they are more interested in lining their own pockets and boinking somebody new every week than actually trying to "help" their constituents.

The less work our legislators do, the better off we are. How this applies to governors, I'm not quite sure, but the less they say the better.

Donna B.   ·  June 30, 2009 10:43 PM

You, and VDH, protest too much. Sex scandals hit the Republicans harder because the Republicans have been campaigning as the party of sexual morality for close unto 40 years now.

We Republicans believe in "Family Values™", which has come to mean staying married, not having children out of wedlock, not fucking around too promiscuously, and not being too tolerant of gay people. Significant policy debates turned on these values - welfare reform in 1996 depended partly on the idea that incenting women to have kids and keep the fathers away was a really bad idea.

So, when a Republican politician gets caught at doing something his party campaigns against, he suffers for it politically.

Anthony   ·  July 1, 2009 2:14 AM

Grover Cleveland


There was no golden age of civility. VDH not withstanding.

M. Simon   ·  July 1, 2009 3:15 AM

Grover Cleveland


There was no golden age of civility. VDH not withstanding.

M. Simon   ·  July 1, 2009 3:18 AM


Sanford's, and by extension the Republicans being more severely tarred by a sex-scandal than democrats does not stem, in my opinion, from any regional bias.

Two items, first, the Republicans have for decades pandered to the religious right in return for their support and the religious right is the main republican constituency which does focus on this issue. THe religious right has a large southern constituency also.
Second, Sanford was exposed as a rank hypocrite because he was highly critical of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and went on to vote for three of the for articles of impeachment.

Yes, there are differences between the circumstances of the two cases (Clinton & Sanford), but they are differences without distinctions.

I suspect that much of the Republican's disgust with Sanford stems more from his hypocrisy than from his adultery.

You are correct in that most Americans do not like being scolded, but I think that they like a hypocrite even less. Especially when he is a former moral scold himself.

Tim P   ·  July 1, 2009 9:07 AM

Hmmm, not being too tolerant of gay people.
Moby or real? I got leery of "concerned Christians" during the election.

Veeshir   ·  July 1, 2009 9:56 AM

I agree that regionalism is at work here, but I don't think the scolding is anything new. New England is Puritan, and therefore statist by tradition. When the Republican party was the party of big government, New England was Republican. When the Democrat party became the party of big government, New England became Democrat. See David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. It's an English regional thing imported in the 17th century.

Dick Leed   ·  July 1, 2009 11:15 AM

It's not just the Left who hold Republicans to a higher standard.

Republicans hold Republicans to a higher standard. And they should. If Republicans can ever manage to campaign as the party of probity, they'd win massive majorities. But because they're seen as being as bad as the Democrats in terms of morality, it takes away one of their few advantages.

Kim du Toit   ·  July 1, 2009 11:30 AM

What a blithering halfwit. Our governor Jim Doyle, D WI screwed the whole state and none even mentions him.

dphorstick   ·  July 1, 2009 11:36 AM

Why do you believe that publicly traded companies that are ripping off the taxpayer public won't be ripping off the investor public? Do you really think they would provide fair and honest disclosures to their small investors when they habitually use their political connections to manipulate laws and contracts in their favor? Why should they?

Simone BC   ·  July 1, 2009 12:46 PM

Of course the scandal in the Northeast and among Democrats is that Sanford had an affair with a woman. They just don't see the attraction of that at all.

willis   ·  July 1, 2009 1:00 PM

For an explanation of why the NE is somewhat quirky/kinky, you have to read Albion's Seed by DH Fisher. It explains how the notions of ordered freedom and personal freedom differed during it's founding from those ideas in other parts of the country. It also indicates that their idea of ordered liberty was that central committees/selectmen would decide what was the proper behavior & belief for the community and then everyone else had to abide by it. And so among liberals who still overwhelmingly populate and source from the northeast, they still believe they have the right to decide for the rest of the country and tell us what we need to do.

DamnWalker   ·  July 1, 2009 1:49 PM

"Why do you believe that publicly traded companies that are ripping off the taxpayer public won't be ripping off the investor public?"
- - - - -

I think the chance that any of the very large public companies that are most often named when people talk about rip-offs - be they insurers, medical services, or whatever - the chance that they could pull off parallel rip-offs while living through an era when they're likely more scrutinized than ever before, both by governmental types and by motivated private watchdog types, is very, very small.

Could they be slipping millions out somewhere? Sure, but they'd have to be slipping tens of billions out to make the kind of impact people regularly accuse them of causing.

bobby b   ·  July 1, 2009 2:05 PM

I am a Sandlapper, and here's the thing about our governor: He went awol.

The affair is between him and his wife, the other is a problem for us all.

For instance, SC gets severe weather in the summer. If a line of severe thunderstorms and or tornadoes causes flooding, destroys a town breaks down dams -- whatever, the gov is the *only* one with the authority to send in the National Guard. It is not acceptable that he leave the state without delegating to the L. Governor -- in a crisis an backside-covering governor's staff could delay things for hours.

TedN   ·  July 1, 2009 2:27 PM

Many Americans love to scold, the essential run-up to passing tyrannical legislation. They just don't like to be scolded.

Scolding is so common and popular, it belies our claims to be champions of tolerance.

Brett   ·  July 2, 2009 8:05 AM

"If a line of severe thunderstorms and or tornadoes causes flooding, destroys a town breaks down dams..."
--TedN July 1, 2009 02:27 PM

...the story would be on all the 24/7 cable news networks, twittered about, blah blah. Somehow, I doubt Gov. Sanford was as cut off from South Carolina's bureaucracy-world as so many folks here imagine.

And if South Carolina's state government's executive dept. agencies are as dependent for direction by a single master mind as so many folks here imagine, why did anyone imagine a mere politician was qualified to be governor in the first place?

Dum, dum, de dum dum, dummmmm!

Micha Elyi   ·  July 4, 2009 3:26 AM

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