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Son of the Treason State

Mark Sanford, Ladies and Gentlemen!!

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

There is a county in South Carolina that has been, statistically, the most violent area of the United States since colonial times. Of course, trying to find my notes for that has produced nothing this morning, but take my word for it. Not every year, but overall for centuries. It was composed mostly of Scot-Irish immigrants from the Emerald Isle not given to like British rule to start with and even less likely later to enjoy the thought of black slaves suddenly having the same citizenship status they had, and more competition for jobs and, more important, the many shades of status that can be so important to self image and crime stats. To a degree, it's hard wired into us, and to a greater degree it's difficult to admit and deal with it. But, there it is. In South Carolina.

South Carolina had an election yesterday, and former Governor Mark Sanford - he who abandoned wife and family and his job as Governor to court a South American woman to whom he is now engaged and who lied about it - has defeated Stephen Colbert's sister - Elizabeth Colbert Busch - for a Congressional seat. This most red of red states went to Romney by 18 points last year, and Busch did do better, losing by only ten, but what does Sanford's victory say about the Palmetto State, often called the Treason State by those who read?

Is Sanford, an effective politician, a conservative? His family values seem somewhat less burnished, and he was in fact censored by the South Carolina state government, given he left the country and his job with no forwarding address and used state funds for his trysts. He came back and said he'd been hiking the Appalachian Trail, thus expanding the immense national collection of Deflection Phrases, sometimes called lies, when called on the carpet. Once touted as a rising star of the GOP, Sanford tried to score points with the conservative Tea Party wing by refusing Stimulus money, but was forced to take it. It was the sort of grandstanding for which he is now famous.

He seems to have won because a telephone push poll suggest Colbert-Busch, a practicing Catholic, had had an abortion. This is the state where another Bush once push polled John McCain had a black child by infidelity. And South Carolina chose to believe it.

Sanford has become the God of the Third Rate White Man, with a marriage that gave him no happiness, a job he didn't like all that much and abandoned when he felt like it, obligations he couldn't live up to, but unlike most he had power and money. Sanford dumped his wife for a younger and hotter woman, but an abortion, even if fictional, carries more weight in South Carolina.

But the posturing hypocrisy isn't just Sanford's, it's South Carolina's. For example, Nikki Haley, the young woman of East Indian heritage who succeeded Sanford as Governor, decided not to remove the Stars and Bars - the traditional Confederate battle flag - from government buildings. It's part of the state's heritage, we're told, as it is in other Southern states who fought the Feds in the Civil War.

The problem is, that just ain't so. The Southern States fought under their own state flags or regimental devices. They weren't thrilled with their supposed national flag, the Stars and Bars, because it meant loss of state supremacy to a greater power, the government of Jefferson Davis. It made small sense to them to go to war against one tyrannical government in order to install another.

The Confederate flag, therefore, did not become the unifying emblem now assumed until the Daughters of the Confederacy found united need for political power to protect the graves and memorials of their rebellion. They adopted the little loved flag in some irony to get their wishes. And they were successful, given there are Confederate memorials and markers all over the South and in northern states up to and including Michigan. When Lincoln said 'let them up easy' I doubt he imagined how literally it would be taken. But I suspect he'd approve. He is unlikely to have approved of the further adoption of the flag by Jim Crow enthusiasts and segregationists in the 1950's, when the idea that cloth had actually been a uniting symbol of the South in the war was falsely implanted.

Such an accurate symbol of convenient ignorance and hypocrisy could not be imagined as the American South has excelled in exhibiting those qualities. Mark Sanford is just the latest emblem: a Conservative who exhibits few of their supposed values except financial restraint, and that might just be a political act. That he arose in the most violent of states with the worst record of treason and race relations should not be surprising, so he bears watching. Closely.