by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
First it was Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Then it was Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Now it is Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
Clashing with President Trump is the quickest way to the exits for a Republican lawmaker who represents red-state voters. This is despite the lingering movement of conservative opposition to Trump that invites these politicians to assert their opposition to a president who lacks their shared history fighting for conservative principles. …
… Trump acted at a time when he could not have been assigned too much blame if Sanford challenger Katie Arrington fell short. But he clearly deserves a great deal of the credit for the incumbent’s defeat.
Sanford certainly thought so over a year ago, when he told Politico he was a “dead man walking.” In that interview, Sanford decried the world of “alternative facts” that accompanied the Trump administration and seemed to accept his political fate.
“I believe in a war of ideas … and I tell the staff all the time: Look, we’re in the business of crafting and refining our arguments that are hopefully based on the truth,” he said. “Truth matters. Not hyperbole, not wild suggestion, but actual truth.”
Attitude, identity and a willingness to fight characterize the Trump-era GOP more than ideas or political philosophy. And to the extent that there is something distinctly ideological about Trump, the president’s populism and nationalism are different than Sanford’s quiet libertarianism.