It’s ironic that Elizabeth Busch’s brother is a comedian, because she missed the fact that a funny thing happened on the way to the South Carolina congressional race–all of a sudden, it’s the Democrats that have become the screechy family values party, and it didn’t go over well with the voters. It’s hard to get a handle exactly on why Sanford’s marital problems didn’t seem to worry the voters. I think the answer is obvious–the voters generally like him. They generally didn’t like her. That was enough. But when you listen to the voters, when asked about this issue, you start to discern another overtone. After the past twenty five years, the Democrats, not the Republicans, have begun to preach about the sanctity of marriage. It has happened in the context of marriage equality, in which the Democrats have harped on the fact that marriage is so important and vital that it should be available to everyone. And once you open the door to allowing people to define their own marriages and relationships in ways outside the norm, it becomes increasingly difficult to criticize any one else’s marriage or marital choices. So when a candidate who wants to redefine marriage in a way which is not traditional starts to criticize Sanford for what he does within his own marriage, the voters begin to shake their heads and wonder where she’s coming from.
Marriage equality has always been a strange issue. While it always attracted the American left as an equality cause, it has also long enjoyed support of the libertarian right, which rejects the right of government to intervene in what is, in all respects, a contractual relationship. During the past thirty years, the evangelical portion of the Republican Party has led the opposition to marriage equality, which has only served to mask the issue that these same evangelicals lined up behind Jimmy Carter in 1976. Evangelicals change their loyalty with their socks, but the core of the Republican Party has long been more concerned with fiscal matters than social matters. South Carolina, in particular, is not really an evangelical state and Republican Party is very pragmatic on social issues. As a result, Sanford’s conduct doesn’t necessarily offend Republicans, the evangelicals who are there recognize the concept of redemption of a moving force of life, and Busch looked like a librarian telling people to be quiet.
This race will need some scrutiny. It is evident that money and a name doesn’t always buys a congressional seat, at least outside of New York and Massachusetts. I have never heard of her brother–apparently a lot of South Carolina residents didn’t either. But it is also evident that money and a name won’t do you any good if you don’t understand the state in which you are running, the people who you want to represent and the politics which are in rapid flux.