Sanford and the “God of Second Chances”

Life often imitates parody in South Carolina: former Gov. Mark Sanford has just put up his first ad in his campaign to get back his old congressional seat, recently vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott. Seems he’s going full-tilt into the paradox of simultaneously begging for forgiveness for his sins (which include not just adultery and public idiocy but a variety of financial irregularities that might have in some jurisdictions landed him in the hoosegow), while posing as the guy that can smite Washington with demands for strict fiscal accountability and moral rectitude.

The ad’s not up at YouTube just yet, but CNN’s Ashley Killough reports:

Former Republican Gov. Mark Sanford addressed the controversy that derailed his marriage and reputation in his first television ad for the special election in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.

“I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes. But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it,” Sanford says in the spot, looking directly into the camera.

“In that light,” he continued. “I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington.”

Now the sin-and-redemption theme has worked for generations of southern politicians caught in various improprieties. But it’s not always matched so tightly with a message of Prophetic Wrath against the evil moneychangers in the temples of democracy who are wasting the tax dollars of the righteous on people with a lot fewer moral failings than Mark Sanford. A plea to the God of Second Chances to get the opportunity to smite the government of second chances is psychologically interesting, to say the least.

It’s probably true that Sanford needs a relatively small number of forgiving souls to win a special election that begins with an incredibly crowded (sixteen candidates) March 19 primary; he’s almost certain to make a runoff on name identification alone, and one of his more viable potential runoff opponents, Teddy Turner, is already making some novice errors. But the former governor had better keep his Old Testament/New Testament thematics straight, and it might be wise to keep his fiancee (the “soul-mate” with whom he had the intercontinental tryst that destroyed his governorship) out of sight until the votes are counted.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.