Sanford’s Class Warfare

Down nine points in the most recent poll and without direct financial help from his national party, Mark Sanford’s counter-attack against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch begins two weeks from the special election balloting, and it’s a patented Palmetto approach, per this report from The Hill‘s Cameron Joseph:

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) goes on the attack for the first time in his newest ad, accusing his House opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, of shilling for “big labor.”

The ad plays video of Colbert Busch saying “The voices of the union are not being heard and I promise to be that voice for you.”

“That’s Elizabeth Colbert Busch fighting for big labor,” the ad’s narrator says. “Colbert Busch is funded by labor union special interest money, even the one trying to shut down Boeing. In Congress she’ll return the favor.”

You may recall that South Carolina Republicans have gone well beyond the usual GOP attacks on public sector unions or union shop arrangements by demonizing the very concepts of collective bargaining and labor representation. Sanford’s one-time protege and gubernatorial successor Nikki Haley made that abundantly clear in her 2012 State of the State Address by saying: “We’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.” She appointed a union-busting labor attorney to head up the state’s Labor Department, and helped make the National Labor Relations Board’s support for a union action against the Boeing Corporation’s relocation of facilities from Washington to South Carolina a big national GOP issue (as alluded to in Sanford’s ad; the Boeing plant is in the 1st district).

For her part, Busch has supported the Boeing plant and claims to have worked closely with the company in setting up its South Carolina operations. She’s also hitting Sanford for voting repeatedly against funding for the Ex-Im Bank, of which Boeing is a major beneficiary. But Sanford is demanding she return all union campaign donations and officially join the state’s march back towards the nineteenth century.

It was inevitable that Sanford would try to make this contest partisan and ideological instead of personal, given his wretched favorable/unfavorable ratings and his inept handling of relations with his ex-wife, a vastly more popular figure among 1st district Republicans who could have probably won this seat in a walk had she tried. Perhaps the ex-governor will supplement the union-bashing approach with some tasteful ads about Busch’s ties to baby-killers and looters and snarky elitists like her brother. But straight class warfare (always, of course, with a racial undertone) has been a winner for GOP pols in this state for some time, so maybe he’ll put all his money on maximum subservience to the almighty Job Creators.

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.