Free Minds & Free Markets

Mark Sanford Is a Libertarian Republican Who Took on Trump. He Just Lost His Primary.

The Trump-ening of the Republican Party continues apace. Sanford had criticized Trump for, among other things, saying the constitution had an Article XII.

Credit - Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomCredit - Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomA primary challenger backed by President Donald Trump successfully unseated incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) tonight just hours after Trump took to Twitter to attack Sanford for—of all things—the congressman's marital infidelities.

First-term state Rep. Katie Arrington (R-Dorchester) defeated Sanford, earning more than 51 percent of the vote to Sanford's 46 percent. She will face Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham in the heavily Republican district this November. Meanwhile, Sanford's defeat means Congress will lose an advocate for limited government and individual liberty at the end of the current term.

In an interview with Politico last weekend, Sanford suggested that a loss in his re-election bid could cause other Republicans to think twice before speaking out against the Trump administration. Now that he's lost, his words also serve as a call for his fellow anti-Trump GOPers to keep fighting the good fight.

"I think it's entirely appropriate to say 'I agree' when I agree and 'I disagree' when I disagree," Sanford told Politico's Alex Isenstadt. "That's the American way. That's what our entire political system is based on, is the fact that we can have dissent."

Taking down an incumbent is no easy feat in American politics, but this race was really a referendum on the relative strength of the anti-Trump contingent in the Republican Party as it struggles to hold off the #MAGA cult of personality.

Sanford's dissent to Trump's takeover of the GOP dates back nearly two years. In July 2016, shortly after wrapping up the Republican nomination and hoping to unify the party before the convention, Trump paid a high profile visit to congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill. Sanford came away from a closed-door meeting less than impressed by Trump's grasp of the U.S. Constitution.

"I wasn't particularly impressed," Sanford told The Washington Post at the time. "It was the normal stream of consciousness that's long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, 'I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,' going down the list. There is no Article XII."

Since then, Sanford has accused Trump of fanning "the flames of intolerance," criticized Trump's use of the word "shit-hole" to describe some third world countries, and most recently called the president's plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports "an experiment with stupidity." He's also criticized Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for not taking a hard enough line against the Trump White House.

Trump appears to have taken notice. As voters were heading to the polls Tuesday, the president took a shot at the incumbent congressman.

Yes, that reference to Argentina is the thrice-wedded president (who may have had an affair with a porn star) accusing Sanford of being bad at marriage, apparently without a hint of irony.

It's true that Sanford's six-day disappearance during July 2009—when he was supposedly hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail, but was actually having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, María Belén Chapur—changed the course of his political career. An effort was made to impeach Sanford, but South Carolina lawmakers ended up merely issuing a "rebuke" of the governor instead. Sanford finished his term, then got elected to Congress in 2013 (he had previously represented the same district from 1995 through 2001, when he stepped down to honor a promise to serve only three terms).

Prior to La Affaire Argentine, Sanford was regarded as a possible White House contender. Following Ron Paul's 2008 dark horse presidential run, he and then-governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson (along with, of course, Rand Paul) were often identified as the heirs apparent to the libertarian wing of the GOP.

"They'll say it as if it's an evil word—like 'you're a communist' or something," Sanford said in 2009 when he was labeled a "libertarian" by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S,C), whom no one would confuse for a libertarian. "I wear it as a badge of honor, because I do love, believe in, and want to support liberty."

It is fitting, perhaps, that the Republican Party's turn towards Trump's economic nationalism has coincided with Johnson departing the party to become a Libertarian and Sanford being tossed from its ranks.

Will there be a third act for Sanford? One can hope. Whatever you may think of his personal foibles, he's been a consistently principled voice for liberty and limited government. He opposes bailouts, loves Atlas Shrugged, and disdains political tribalism. And in the age of Trump, a history of adultery is hardly political suicide anymore.

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  • Tony||

    Either these are the death throes of the Republican party or we get to look forward to testing whether the dumbest fucking humans on the planet can successfully govern a superpower in the long-term.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    You mean Hillary? The voters already decided that little contest between dumb and dumber.

    She lost.

  • Tony||

    She won with the voters, actually.

  • Seamus||

    Yeah, but that's not what wins presidential elections. Similarly, the team that gets the greatest number of runs isn't the one that wins the World Series.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Which means literally nothing.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    No she didn't. There were 50 elections, and she only won with those voters in those elections she chose to run in. Too bad for her she chose the wrong elections and tried to run up the score where she was guaranteed to win, while ignoring those elections which were hotly contested.

    It's as if she were trying to run up the totals points in a season by putting all her efforts into clobbering a few easy opponents, while ignoring the hard games and thus losing the total games won.

    It's as if she didn't know squat about elections.

  • JesseAz||

    No she didn't. Didn't win a majority.

  • WoodChipperBob||

    "Please, anybody but these two" actually won with the voters. A majority of voters voted against Clinton. A different (somewhat larger) majority of voters voted against Trump. If she had won with the majority of voters, she would have won the election.

  • Schizoidman_21||

    She lost. STFU!

  • Rich||

    "That's what our entire political system is based on, is the fact that we can have dissent."

    So, Mark, did the system work?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    And then the voters decide, which they just did. And he still gets to dissent, just not as their agent.

  • JFree||

    So who's the next libertarian R to be targeted?

    And who's the next one who will surrender in order to avoid being targeted?

  • Sevo||

    "So who's the next libertarian R to be targeted?"
    Cite missing on ANY who have done other than flapping jaws.
    I'll wait, but nor for long; the answer is zero.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Mark Sanford was one of the most fiscally conservative Republicans around. This Trumpization of the GOP is just a purging of any remaining shreds of fiscal conservatism. At least now Republicans can be a little more honest about what they actually believe: more government.

  • Mark22||

    Mark Sanford was one of the most fiscally conservative Republicans around.

    Yeah, and otherwise, he was a McCain loving authoritarian who was too stupid to even have a clandestine extramarital affair.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    He said "Argentinian tail" and everybody heard "Appalachian Trail."

  • ThomasD||

    Reason's ideal Republican hero is one who has lost office.

  • vek||

    I dunno about that skippy. Trump is not a SMALL government guy, but he's also shown real interest in ACTUALLY cutting spending on damn near anything that isn't the military. Sad as it may be, that's largely an improvement from the recent past.

    I think if ever R in congress magically turned into a Trumpian we'd be getting more good stuff passed than with the RINO types. We'd also get some bad stuff... But again better than Dems or establishment Neocons and RINOs.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    CMB isn't known here for being correct about much.

  • ThomasD||

    "Mark Sanford was one of the most fiscally conservative Republicans around."

    Toughest guy in the Chess Club too.

  • Sevo||

    That horrible blowhard, racist, miserable, something, something something, has done *NOTHING* which libertarians should support. *NOTHING*! Not one thing since he's a big poopyhead! And, as libertarians, we should NEVER support actions, just our like or dislike for the Principal!

    1) DeVos
    2) Gorsuch
    3) Ajit Pai, end net price fixing
    4) Major reduction in the growth of regulations
    5) Dow +30%
    6) Unemployment at 3.8%
    7) The US Manufacturing Index soared to a 33 year high
    8) Got repeal of the national medical insurance mandate.
    9) Withdrawal from Paris climate agreement.
    10) Not sure about the tax reform; any "reform" that leaves me subisdizing Musk's customers is not what I hoped for. Let Musk run a company for once.
    11) In the waning days of 2017, the Trump administration pulled its support for the $13 billion Hudson Tunnel project.
    12) More than 16,000 jobs have been cut from the federal leviathan
    13) MIGHT have a deal to de-nuke NK.
    And finally:
    14) Still making lefties steppin and fetchin like their pants is on fire and their asses are catchin'

    To repeat, I did not vote for the guy; he's a blow-hard and a loose cannon, but by accident or design, he's doing better than any POTUS I can remember

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    he's doing better than any POTUS I can remember

    Ditto -- earliest President I can remember anything of, policy-wise, is LBJ, a cretin cronyist of the worst sort. Wouldn't have bought a used or new car from Nixon. Carter at least had some personal integrity and did deregulate trucks and trains and airplanes. Reagan sounded nice to his fanboys, sort of like Obama to his fanboys. Clinton wasn't too proud to negotiate with Newt to get the closest to a balanced budget since Coolidge. Bush II was such a stumblebum that he made Obama the candidate look cultured.

    Trump is horrible on trade and immigration, but it's been a year and a half and the Dems haven't quit freaking out over Hillary losing, he appointed some great judges, he's not really slimmed down government but he hasn't grown it either, and that's far better than just about anybody else would have done.

    What the hell. Better than 99% of the alternative universes.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    He is terrible on "almost" everything while the Hag would have been terrible on everything plus we'd most likely be in a full blown shooting war in Syria so Her Royal Hagness could prove she is "tough". So I'll concede that bad is better than the worst.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Meh, I keep hearing how band Trump is from the virtue signalers, then he does stuff, and it's not the chicken little scenario they're insisting it is, so I have to consider that when I hear people declare him "terrible on 'almost' everything"

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Not on your list but very important: Several serious shitheads have been fired and humiliated.

  • FlameCCT||

    Better question: Who's the next Progressive R to be targeted?

    Sanford, like Johnson, was a Progressive hiding as a Libertarian R just as McCain and others have hid as Conservative R. Sanford would have had no problem in SC if he had stuck to policy dissent instead of going full-blown #NeverTrump.

  • AustinRoth||

    "we get to look forward to testing whether the dumbest fucking humans on the planet can successfully govern a superpower in the long-term."

    Obama and his team managed to do so for 8 years. Of course, it was an unmitigated disaster, which is why Trump.

  • Sevo||

    Beat me to it; the dumb-fuck Tony is forever beating that strawman he drags around with him.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    No doubt Tony types with index fingers only so that he reserves 3 on each hand to point back at himself.

  • Sevo||

    "Meanwhile, Sanford's defeat means Congress will lose an advocate for limited government and individual liberty at the end of the current term."
    OK, how about some cites for what he's accomplished? Oh, I looked farther down in the article; he doesn't like Trump!

    ""They'll say it as if it's an evil word—like 'you're a communist' or something," Sanford said in 2009 when he was labeled a "libertarian" by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S,C), whom no one would confuse for a libertarian. "I wear it as a badge of honor, because I do love, believe in, and want to support liberty.""
    Great! How about some cites for what he's accomplished? Oh, I looked farther down in the article; he doesn't like Trump!
    Yep, I'm a "Trump supporter" since I call bullshit on those who claim to be libertarian based on their dislike of Trump.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    Since then, Sanford has accused Trump of fanning "the flames of intolerance,"

    Why the fuck do you think he got elected? We've already tolerated quite enough, thankyouverymuch.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Prior to La Affaire Argentine, Sanford was regarded as a possible White House contender.

    In our presidents we don't mind affairs, but they have to be smart about it. If a man can't even manage his side piece, how can he manage the country?

  • SIV||


  • javabeast||

    Presidents don't manage the country.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    They don't manage their side pieces very well either, apparently.

  • buddhastalin||

    Thank you. Presidents manage some part of the federal government, which is not "the country".

  • Rigelsen||

    So, instead of doing his level best to advance liberty and represent his constituents, he gets into an insult contest with Trump. I'm not sure why anyone sane would think of that ending well.

    While we can pretend this had anything to do with "libertarian" principles, why would Trump want to work with someone who clearly thinks him beyond the pale. A Speaker of the House of the same party should take a "hard line" against the sitting president?

    The thing about Trump is that he is unprincipled in the sense of being agnostic to principle. He just doesn't care for it. This means there is opportunity for whoever is willing to work with him to get him the "wins" he craves. Fortunately, enough Republicans have bucked the Never-Trumpers to forestall the second coming of Richard Nixon. I mean in the policy sense, not the political one. If more "principled" liberty lovers would do as Rand Paul has done, and realize this fact, we could have a real renaissance of liberty in this country.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Sucking up to power never ends well for the sucker.

  • SusanM||

    Only if you forget to bring Kleenex.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Spitters never win big league.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    That is not only wrong, it is vastly stupid in its wrongness. Most of DC is nothing but people who did well sucking up to power.

  • Rigelsen||

    Huh? Refusing to get into a pissing contest is the same as sucking up?

    No, I'd rather our representatives actually represent and advance our interests. Supposedly, that's the job we elect them to do, not preen and prance like a bunch of peacocks.

    Are you one of those that would put your representative's vanity above your own liberty, economic, and other interests? Really? Sounds like a cult of personality. Maybe you should get it looked at.

    Sanford has the added problem of throwing stones from a glass house.

  • SIV||

    Cosmos going DOWN !


  • HGW xx/7||

    I think Sanford is correct in his opposition to tribalism. Regardless of how effective or ineffective he was - I don't live anywhere near SC - tribalism is something to watch out for no matter your party. There has to be factions within each in order to create gridlock even in times of single party dominence.

    Case in point, I truly believe that if there weren't such a thing as blue dog democrats, when the dems had both chambers and Obama, we'd probably have nationalized health care. The internal factions within the left prevented that from happening, but if this push for tribalism and allegiance continues, that stop gap might disappear. The same goes for the sects within the GOP. We need push back against the religious right.

    Obviously, there will be times when one party runs the show. The grid lock between the parties can't always be guaranteed; for our freedoms, we have to make sure that there is friction within the parties, as well. Tribalism impedes that.

    Not saying that this win somehow magically makes it so, or that the left hasn't been purging their non-goosestepping members. Merely saying that it is something we can't just disregard because 'MAGA' is the call du jour. Please call me out if I'm sounding crazy.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Bah. NeverTrump is just another tribe, they're just schisming from the larger "Republican" tribe. After decades of, "You can't always get what you want, you have to support the party's nominee!", somebody THEY didn't like got the nomination, and suddenly it was a matter of principle to undercut the nominee.

    And they ended up revealed as just a small faction within the party they'd controlled for so long, one dedicated to rule or ruin.

  • FlameCCT||

    IMO, the #NeverTrump tribe is basically Progressives that have been hiding as Conservative and/or Libertarian just like Progressives hid as Liberals for decades. Progressivism is just Communism with better propaganda!

  • Robert||

    No, within the GOP the neverTrumpers are mostly the type who want & need to reinforce their own establishment: the people who never intend to get anything done, know their place, & hold onto a sinecure.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    "the religious right."

    The religious right is dead and has been for quite some time. That scare tactic has no scare left in it.

  • vek||

    The flip side of in party in fighting is ALSO that we never get anything GOOD done. All the RINO/neocon types have ensured that we have had ZERO actual conservative governance, even when the GOP nominally had free reign.

    There is a time and a place for unity and tribalism, and a time and a place to fight against it. Just look at the time since Trump got elected and how the big government GOP people have pissed all over a ton of awesome stuff that Trump would have gladly signed off on. I'm pretty sure if a bill got put in front of Trump that would slash ALL non military spending by 50% he's just "crazy" enough that he'd sign the damn thing!

    Right now I'd be fine with the GOP being a little more in lock step since I don't think Trump really wants to pass anything too bad. He's not perfect on many issues, but if he got every single thing on his wish list I think the country would be greatly improved, even with the few downsides that would include.

  • HGW xx/7||

    I can't argue with any of the replies. A faction is a faction is a faction, after all. It would be nice to see him slash defense spending. If he picks another Gorsuch, I'll be ecstatic.

  • FlameCCT||

    It would be nice if he slashed other than defense spending until they were once again in equilibrium, then slash them all some more. Gov't programs spend more on administration (staff, overhead, etc.) than the actual programs themselves.

  • Robert||

    Push back against the religious right? How much of a threat is the religious right these days? Unless you meant Islamofascists.

  • Mark22||

    Libertarian Republican? Are you kidding? The man wanted to be McCain's running mate and lost out to Sarah Palin.

    Trump is more "libertarian" than Sanford. Heck, Hillary is more libertarian than Sanford.

  • SIV||


    partially true

  • FlameCCT||

    IOW Sanford is a Progressive.

  • Robert||

    But look at his 4 cited positions as of 2002 on Civil Rights! He managed to be anti-liberty & anti-progressive on all of them, even opposing civil unions! (Remember those?)

    But that's not all! "Voted YES on prohibiting needle exchange & medical marijuana in DC", "Voted NO on decreasing gun waiting period from 3 days to 1"

    Yes, plenty of good things in there, but overall? Club for Growth rated him "C". Diamond chart at the bottom doesn't show him especially libertarian. Because Lindsey Graham called him libertarian, we're supposed to believe it? Or just because anybody who razzes Trump now rises in HyR bloggers' esteem?

  • XM||

    Trump backed Luther Strange in AL and Roy Moore won convincingly. Trump's endorsement is less than the
    Midas touch, although in the GOP primaries the winners aren't anti Trump.

    I'm thinking the republican voters in SC were getting tired of Sanford and the more populist wing eventually moved onto the more openly pro Trump candidate.

  • Tony||

    Maybe Republicans simply like to touch little girls in the vagina. You know, like Roy Moore? Perhaps that is their biggest goal in politics, to finally be able to fingerblast 12 year-old girls. Imagine if these people had (D)s after their names, Christ.

  • Mark22||

    Tony, not only are you lying, you are also thoroughly disgusting.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    Don't forget stupid, ignorant, and obstinate.

  • FlameCCT||

    Does it hurt being this ignorant Tony?
    Or just normal for a Progressive serf?

  • steve walsh||

    Seems to me there was a lot more that Sanford did besides criticizing Trump that lead to his defeat.

  • Longtobefree||

    That's what our entire political system is based on, is the fact that we can have dissent.

    Uh, not any more. Could be he lost because he is an idiot.

  • vek||

    This probably means nothing, but if it is a sign of things to come it's probably a good thing.

    The truth is the GOP has been held back from actually governing in a conservative manner by the neocons and RINOs for a LONG time. If THOSE types of Republicans get purged out of the party, and replaced by MAGA types, that would be a vast improvement over the status quo. Obviously getting replaced by all Ron Pauls would be better, but MAGA is better than John McCain types any day!

    As for Sanford, I know his name. I know I've read things about him before... But not a single good thing he has ever said/done sticks in my head. Ron/Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, etc all did awesome libertarianish stuff that stuck in my head... Not this guy. So he can't be that awesome or I'd remember something.

    Perhaps if he actually is decent it is too bad he got tossed out, but as mentioned above, by and large any incumbents getting tossed out and replaced by MAGA types is statistically likely to be a net positive given how shitty the average incumbent GOP types are right now.

    So I say more power to them! Toss all the bums out!

  • H. Farnham||

    Hey it looks like the LP has their token Republican retread now... Sanford/Sharp 2020!

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I find it weird and creepy to care about someone else's marriage.

    If I have a friend who confides in me and asks for my take, that's a little different. But for me to judge the actions of my coworker or congressman when I am not married to their spouse and I know nothing about the intimate details of their relationship is seriously none of my business.

    Besides, I thought all this was settled by the Clintons back in the 90s.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Sanford opposed Trump who has done more major Libertarian-ish things than Sanford.

    American voters in Sanford's district noticed.

  • Stilgar||

    Not spending money is the most libertarian thing anyone involved in government can do. Your little girl Trump fails by a HUGE margin there while Sanford did not.

  • FlameCCT||

    LMAO. Poor Stilgar.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Just making my annual check to see if these comments are still nothing but Trump-sucking.


    Adios, boys. I'll check in again in 2019.

  • SIV||

    Good riddance, commie

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    The best thing that Mark Sanford could do for individual liberty is to unseat Lindsay Graham in 2020.

  • gaoxiaen||

    He should seek the Libertarian candidacy. Being anti-Trump is a sword that cuts both ways. He could receive leftist voters, as well as Libertarian, limited government, and Independent votes. Better than the last two doofuses.

  • gaoxiaen||

    *probably better

  • FlameCCT||

    IIRC that was the same hype for the Progressive Republican Johnson, one of the last two doofuses.

  • darkflame||

    I grew up in SC, in the Charleston area. Sanford's not a libertarian, and a big part of the reason he lost was that marital affair. Going MIA for a week at the tax payers expense doesn't make for happy voters. A lot of the people down there feel the local GOP doesn't listen to them and are more worried about stuffing their bank accounts.

  • The gouch||

    !! EXCELLENT !!

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Is that Sanford I hear singing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"?

  • Country John||

    I was an early Sanford for President booster and am totally sorry how this has ended up for him, and for a country that deserves a lot better than what we're getting..

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