As the Sanford thing unfolded yesterday, I was “itchy.” I just knew this was gonna leave a mark somehow. Last night, my wife and I sat in a small teriyaki place, a place that always has one TV on CNN and one on ESPN, having something akin to dinner. CNN was having a great deal of fun at the expense of social conservatives. Sometime during Larry King they ran of litany of “the fallen.” Oh sure, John Edwards and Bill Clinton flashed by, but they dwelled on Sanford, Gingrich, and other Republicans. But then it is not surprising from CNN. (I could not get near MSNBC, I just knew it would be vile.)
But scanning the news this morning has come close to breaking my spirit. The daily headlines I get from the Washington Times, a purposefully conservative newspaper, were lead by this:
Republicans retreat from values claims
That, dear friends hurts a lot coming from that source. Two thoughts cross my mind. The first is that social conservatives, in a sense, deserve this. We do attempt to stand on high moral ground. And while we hold a religious belief that relies on grace, the world does not share that belief. In such a circumstance, when we stand on that high ground, we are obligated to live up to it.
I have said in the church for years that the scandals that plague TV preachers do the cause of Christianity real harm. The same applies in this situation. As morally based political activists, our cause is hurt tremendously by scandals like this. We are now in the unfortunate and unappealing situation of having to throw Sanford under the bus. At a time when he and his family have much need, and all our instincts as people of God is to give it, we have no choice but to denounce him as a part of our movement.
This is why, much as he has worked to regain our trust and redeem himself, there are limits to how high Newt Gingrich can be allowed to climb again. This is also why, as appealing as she appears. there are limits to Sarah Palin too. While the issue of her daughter is just her daughter and not her, and her daighter made heroic choices in the face of the circumstance, it taints, and we cannot at this juncture afford even a taint.
This is why we have to exercise much care, much more than we historically have, in who we choose to lead and represent us.
The second point that comes to mind is that this headline may be the result of Republican infighting. With Huckabee’s antics and Palin’s divisiveness, social conservatives have been under much fire inside the party since the last cycle. It would not surprise me if fiscal and defense conservatives were using this scandal to shore up their positions in the party.
Such is unseemly and simply cannot be tolerated. We cannot win anything unless all three legs of the movement can restore the coalition. Any Republican using this scandal sides with the liberal Democrats.
Prayers for the Sanford family and prayers for the party.
Postscript: Jonathon Martin has a more sober analysis of the damage this causes Republicans. Although, his lack of mention of Romney as one of the new generation of leaders is puzzling. And Dan Gilgoff piles on.