The special election in the 1st congressional district of South Carolina was one of the most fierce elections in modern times – all due to extensive focus on a scandal that happened four years ago. The special election was covered extensively in the media, with two names leading the headlines – Elizabeth Colbert-Busch and Mark Sanford. The battleground? A struggle for political power in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Congressional seat was vacant because Tim Scott, former holder of the seat, was appointed to the U.S. Senate by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Jim DeMint left vacant his Senate seat to take the reins of the conservative organization The Heritage Foundation.
Mark Sanford’s name isn’t one you hear in the daily political discourse of students at Malvern Prep. Mark Sanford was a former congressman and governor of South Carolina until he was disgraced in an extramarital affair that was headline news in Summer 2009. The most scandalous information that arose in public information was that he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina. After he resigned from office, he divorced his wife and married the mistress, not actions that were much appreciated in South Carolina at the time. The final straw for some people was that during the election season, he trespassed on the property of his ex-wife – actions forbidden in the protection order that she has for him.
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch was not the most successful Elizabeth in politics this year. Unlike Elizabeth Warren, Colbert-Bush lost the seat by a 45.3% to 54.% percent margin. It was always an uphill battle for Colbert-Busch. She had to separate herself from her brother Stephen Colbert , host of The Colbert Report, and she was a Democrat running in a conservative district. Also, she had no experience in Washington or state politics at all. She was a school administrator at Clemson University who presented an alternative to the Washington as usual Sanford.
In the beginning, it seemed like Colbert-Busch was going to win the election easily because the election was supposed to be a referendum on Sanford. The polls had her up by 10 percentage points, but can we really trust polls after the 2012 Presidential Election. Also, the RCCC (Republican Congressional Campaign Committee) stopped funding in the race. With all these things, why did Mark Sanford win? The answer lies in one name: Nancy Pelosi.
Whenever Sanford got a chance, he connected Pelosi to Colbert-Busch. Pelosi, a progressive democrat, has very low polling in the first congressional district of South Carolina as well as the whole state. Sanford and his campaign team were quick to tell reporters to ask her to name an issue or vote in Congress that she would have issued with House Democratic Leadership on. For the most part Colbert-Busch shunned it off, but she had to answer the questions eventually. She had to tell voters her policy agendas and her beliefs. When the voters heard of the connection, they rejected the liberal extremism that was Nancy Pelosi and Colbert-Busch and voted for the conservative ideologue Mark Sanford. .
Many political pundits and observers watched the one debate that was held with the two contenders for the seat. Colbert-Busch asked some hard questions and stated some biting statements, but Sanford dodged them. Here is an example:
CB: “When we talk about fiscal spending, and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn’t mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.”
S: “I couldn’t hear what she said.”
When the results of the election were analyzed by political scientists, reports showed there was a growing disconnect between voters and larger party platforms. There are single-issue voters in the South that care very deeply about the one issue that they vote on.These issues can range from the Abortion issue to one the liberal side not wanting changes in Medicare and Social Security. However, these same single-choice voters are the same ones that see themselves as having a moral center whatever the theology may be. In that statement lies the issue.
If cases like Sanford continue to happen, it will be the young people who are put in an awful predicament. Do they vote for the person who shares that one belief? Do they vote for the other candidate because they want someone moral in the Legislative Body of Congress? Or, do they just not vote because they see all of Washington as corrupt?
Washington itself is changing and the younger generation is here to see it. The vote of the 18 year old is more crucial. Of course, the lack of “good news” out there is increasing with an expanding internet. School’s might even need to offer a senior elective on political literacy. Students can’t just look to their parents for all the answers. The parent and child’s interests are completely different. Only the younger voter can know themselves who has their best political and economic interests at heart.
If we want to see a fully functioning government, the voters must decide before the general election who they want to run. This may mean voting turnout needs to be higher in the primary elections or it may be a change in the electoral system as we know it. Maybe we need to vote for which candidate we think should run. All the answers to make this a more perfect democracy are not known, but the election of Mark Sanford is just a new trend that can hopefully be broken in the next election cycle.