Opening Act: The Boring Resurrection of Mark Sanford

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 3 2013 8:38 AM

Opening Act: The Boring Resurrection of Mark Sanford

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford attends ceremonies at the Boeing production facilities April 27, 2012, in North Charlston, South Carolina.

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages

How much interest is there, really, in Mark Sanford's campaign to return to Congress? The Internet is an unforgiving place, and we can see how much reader enthusiam has bubbled up. At Politico, there are two Sanford items in the top ten "most popular," but they're trailing items about Bill O'Reilly and Rand Paul. BuzzFeed, the unofficial acid test of Internet popularity, didn't bother sending a reporter down to South Carolina for the two-step primary.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Maybe the obsession is low because, in Web 4.0 (or whatever we're in) terms, the story is taking so long. Most profiles of the New Sanford were filed in February; Jason Zengerle's definitive look at the race is one month old. The election between Sanford and Stephen Colbert's sister isn't for six more weeks.

Alternate theory: The circumstances of Sanford's scandal engendered an unusual empathy for the cad, and the shame cycle ended already. Three years ago, when Sanford returned from the "Appalachian trail," Josh Greenman wrote an insightful column on how people view infidelity if it ends in marriage:

As Woody Allen put it, "The heart wants what it wants." The notion is that, at some spiritual level, real love cannot be controlled or contained, and even if in the end it results in the loss of one's wife and the heartbreak of one's children, at least it treats others as whole and complete human beings. Better that than objectifying and crassly compartmentalizing women and using them to satisfy particular needs at particular times.

Greenman disagreed with that, but in the long run Woody Allen was right. (He's still with Soon-Yi!) Affairs are inherently sad; love and weddings are inherently pleasant. This is why the momentum for gay marriage has been impossible to stop while social conservatives hold tough on abortion and other issues, and why it wasn't bad for Sanford when his fiancee Maria Chapur surprised him at his victory party. This is why only 14 months ago South Carolina conservatives gave their presidential primary vote to Newt Gingrich. The Sanford comeback story? It's been done.


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And North Carolina contemplates a state religion.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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