The shameful Sanford victory

One of the regular talking points from the left regarding same-sex marriage has been that conservatives don’t really care about marriage, they just care about maintaining a political status quo that they find comfortable. If they really cared about marriage, critics ask, where are they when it comes to divorce? 

It’s a lamentably appropriate question, given the way many conservatives embraced an adulterer like Newt Gingrich in last year’s campaign and the way a bunch of conservatives in South Carolina just elected the shameless, two-faced Mark Sanford to the House. The Sanford victory essentially gives supporters of SSM yet one more reason to dismiss traditionalists and conservatives as so many partisan hypocrites who only care about morality to the extent that it’s convenient to do so.

Douthat, as usual, says it well:

One could imagine a world where the advance of gay marriage, and the apparent failure of traditionalist arguments on the issue, inspired social conservatives to seek both a more comprehensive pro-marriage agenda and less compromised standard bearers for that cause. But for now that doesn’t seem to be happening: Instead we live in a world where the same South Carolina voters who handed their primary to the thrice-married Newt Gingrich just held their noses and voted for Sanford, who famously ditched not only his wife but also his gubernatorial duties while pursuing an adulterous affair.

I’m not particularly surprised by that outcome: Sanford was the G.O.P. candidate in a conservative district, and voting on party rather than character is usually the path of least resistance for partisans on both sides. But the fact that South Carolina Republicans took that path, and made his swift and shameless comeback a success, is still a useful indicator of where the energy is on the right — and it emphatically isn’t with people who see the decline of marriage as a bigger issue for conservatism and America than the precise balance of power in the House of Representatives. Again, thepreference among conservatives is obviously for stable marriages and family values and so forth — for the example set by the figures McArdle lists, rather than for Sanford-style shenanigans. But there apparently isn’t enough passion behind that preference at the moment to induce Republican voters to sacrifice even a single House seat on its behalf.

(He also wrote a very good follow up post.) To put a bit of teeth on this, go back and read Jacobs’ excellent First Things essay again and then ask yourself how a supposedly Christian group of voters just elected a supposedly Christian politician whose personal morality seems to more closely resemble Allen’s “the heart wants what it wants,” then anything like the moral universe of Christianity.