Two things surprised me about a new poll on what South Carolinians think should be done about our state’s now famous, philandering governor, Mark Sanford.
First, only 1 percent of the 770 registered voters who responded to our new InsiderAdvantage/Statehouse Report poll had no opinion of what should be done about the governor’s behavior, which has turned South Carolina into a running joke everywhere from water coolers to late night television. For only 1 percent of people to have no opinion about options for his fate shows just how deeply his personal failures have cut into the state’s psyche.
Second, a majority of those polled — 51 percent of respondents — said the S.C. General Assembly should move beyond Sanford and get down to real work of helping people throughout the state. So instead of impeaching him or censuring him or saying he should resign, most South Carolinians pointed their fingers away from Sanford and directly toward the legislature.
The clear message of the poll was that most people – and more Republicans and Independents than Democrats – think it’s just time to move on. As one wag has suggested, we’re just plain worn out by the live soap opera known as “Sanford and Wife.”
So what’s next? South Carolinians apparently have another 13 months to live with Sanford, whose libertarian fanaticism and radical romanticism would have challenged and fascinated the great writer William Faulkner. The governor faces likely censure by the General Assembly, continuing ethical inquiries, divorce and a fight to remain relevant in a state that is turning its back on him. Instead of spouting political rhetoric with passion on a bully pulpit, he’ll struggle to cough convincing words as he seeks pit stops of political relevance.
If South Carolina legislators have a half a brain, they’ll forget about the governor’s case, put the whole mess behind them, and start trying to figure out ways to cut the state’s 12 percent unemployment rate and improve its perennially poor education system.
Yes, the Sanford saga soon should be over – but only, of course, if bottom-feeders in the media can also get over it. It’s been hard to pick up a local newspaper or turn on the television over the last few months without seeing the latest speck of new (mostly meaningless) information about the Sanford family. Either it was the governor at an endless series of Rotary club meetings apologizing for his behavior (a club in Charleston agreed to invite him – at his request – only if he didn’t apologize and instead talked about issues; of course, he couldn’t resist apologizing again for his moral failings.) Or it was Mrs. Governor, First Lady Jenny Sanford, enflaming the media even more by appearing in a national magazine story or giving a big TV interview or issuing a press release about how she was trying to protect her family. Whenever something happened, the too-sensational media was there in full froth to pick up the inanity of whatever was the next Sanford thing.
So as the Year of Sanford comes to a close, let’s ring it out with a pledge to pay more attention to a different Sanford – Fred G. Sanford. Because God knows, Elizabeth, people across South Carolina have been through the big one in 2009.
It’s time to move on.
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report, a weekly South Carolina legislative forecast. A version of this column and more about the InsiderAdvantage/Statehouse Report poll is online at www.statehousereport.com.