I ask that question following yesterday's victory by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in a special election for a seat in the House of Representatives. Sanford is a former governor because he lied about hiking the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and was actually in Argentina to be with his mistress for five days. Sanford resigned "in disgrace"--only to resurface about four years later to not only win the Republican primary, but to also beat Stephen Colbert's sister in the general election. The pundits are calling it an "amazing political comeback". I'm wondering what the hell is the matter with the voters in that district?
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. We Americans have a history of holding our elected representatives to the lowest standards. Ted Kennedy killed a woman and tried to cover it up--and he was never seriously challenged for his Senate seat. If Bill Clinton had been eligible to run again in 2000--do you think Democrats would have passed on nominating him again? Jesse Jackson, Jr was overwhelmingly voted back into Congress last year--despite being indicted on campaign fraud charges. Newt Gingrich left his cancer-stricken wife for a much younger woman--and people were still giving him campaign cash and voting for him in primaries last year. John Edwards is probably looking at that and thinking "Maybe I shouldn't throw out all of those yard signs and campaign funds request forms just yet."
And this is not just a national political phenomenon. We have state legislators with OWI, disorderly conduct, domestic abuse and prostitution offenses on their records--all of which occurred during their terms in office! And then there are Mayors with multiple drunk driving offenses and City Council members with criminal trespassing offenses and even restraining orders against them--yet they continue to go back to City Hall as "representatives of their communities".
I find these politicians to be the biggest benefactors of "party identity politics". They continue to win not because people see their ideals in them--but rather because they have the capital "D" or "R" next to their names. It's like voters say, "Yeah, I know he's a sleazeball. But he's the sleazeball of MY party--and there's no way I'm letting the sleazeball of the other party take that seat!"