From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/04/republican-party-gay-marriage-test
The GOP shuns Senator Mark Kirk for supporting gay marriage, but embraces Mark Sanford, who cheated on his wife
A poll released on Monday found that Republicans‘ number one criticism of their own party was that it was “inflexible” and “unwilling to compromise”. These respondents should be heartened by two headline-grabbing examples of Republicans bending to accommodate human fallibility: GOP voters in South Carolina accepted wayward spouse and absentee governor Mark Sanford as their congressional nominee and Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, announced that he now supports marriage equality. I’d argue that only one of these anecdotes is about the redemption of a man who’s grown as person. If the Republican party wishes to remain relevant and redeem its own image, it would do well to give the cold shoulder to Sanford and embrace Kirk.
At the moment, Sanford is soaking up the party love. He was endorsed by the National Review, most of the top local Republican officials, and Red State’s Erick Erickson, who wrote a column pleading for South Carolinians to “show [Sanford] grace,” allowing of himself, “I am willing to forgive him. And I’m willing to be graceful.”
Sanford accrued that kind support at least in part due to political expediency – a big-name, well-connected veteran politician has better odds in the general election against the formidable opposition of Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. Erickson put the contest in terms of a general Republican malaise, arguing that Sanford “comes back as conservatives in Congress are fighting on all fronts, out numbered, depressed, and needing every man capable of manning the ramparts.” If there’s one thing Mark Sanford has proven, it’s that he’s a man capable of manning.
Sanford’s return to the fold is also part of a familiar narrative arc; his transgression and return may offend some people, but it doesn’t challenge them much. We’ve been forgiving politicians for cheating on their spouses pretty much sense there were spouses to cheat on. And for some reason, social conservatives don’t consider breaking a marriage vow as bad as seeking civic recognition for taking one.
Every one of the arguments Republicans made on behalf of Sanford in the primary race would fit – with not much tailoring – easily into a story about Kirk’s statement. Take the blunt assessment from a government spending hawk who mockingly scolded a voter for “caring more about Sanford’s pants than the precarious fiscal state of the Republic”. What a different kind of party it would be if the GOP could expand the not-caring-about-pants sphere beyond Mark Sanford! They might, in fact, get a chance to do something about the perceived “precarious fiscal state of the Republic”.