Smiley-Face Wingnuttery

At Slate, Dave Weigel’s reporting from Mark Sanford’s campaign consistently reveals an anomaly: Sanford’s on a charm offensive to convince voters he’s this really nice, contrite, sensitive man who shares their paranoid fears about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Check out this passage as an illustration:

Sanford let reporters tag along to the second (of 11) scheduled event, a meet-up with former Gov. James Edwards and defeated primary foe Rep. Chip Limehouse. Edwards, an octogenarian with an iron handshake, summed up Sanford’s anti-Nancy Pelosi message in helpfully apocalyptic terms.

“It’s a battle for the soul of America,” said Edwards. “If we don’t get every vote we can out, Obama will be a dictator. He’s practically a dictator now.”

Limehouse agreed. “What we’re talking about is whether we want socialism to prevail or whether we want to have capitalism,” he said. “I don’t think capitalism is a bad word.”

If you’re not use to “movement conservative” politics, particularly as it’s practiced in the Deep South, this has to be disorienting. Sanford doesn’t have to pursue separate high road/low road messages in this contest: many of the nicest people think Obama is a baby-killing, property-stealing totalitarian, so the candidate doesn’t have to raise his voice or stop smiling, bless his sweet heart.

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.