If there is one thing that you can say about former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, it’s that he sticks to his guns.
During his time as governor, and now back as a congressman representing the state’s 1st Congressional District, Sanford is known for taking principled stands — some good, some quixotic, some detrimental to his constituents (like turning down federal stimulus funds Palmetto State taxpayers had already paid for).
Sanford rarely, if ever, wavers when it comes to public policy matters. He says what he means and means what he says.
Take his criticism of President-elect Donald Trump.
Earlier this year, Sanford joined Democrats in calling on Trump to release his tax records, as pretty much every modern president has. Not surprisingly, some of Trump’s more enthusiastic supporters let the Luv Guv know they weren’t pleased with his comments.
In a recent Politico post, Sanford talks about this, as well as the reluctance of some of his fellow Republicans in Congress to criticize The Donald. Sanford said, “Nobody wants to go first…. People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks.”
According to Politico, Sanford is worried this fear of a “hair-trigger backlash against perceived dissenters… will stifle debate and hinder policymaking.”
The former governor added, “Free speech is one of the hallmarks of our republic…. If people are afraid to say what they think based on fear of reprisal … that’s not free speech.”
Unlike some Republicans at the Capitol, Sanford said he is not afraid to criticize Trump.
The Upstate’s own Trey Gowdy, U.S. representative from the 4th Congressional District, is similarly unwilling to kowtow to the anti-criticism crowd.
On several occasions, Gowdy has said that he believes the executive branch has assumed too much power and that under the new administration, he wants Congress to take some of that power back — and it doesn’t matter if he and Trump are seemingly on the same team … or that Gowdy is serving on The Donald’s transition team.
In a recent Washington Post article, Gowdy said, “The legislative branch was designed to be, and at one point was, the most powerful of the three branches. It is without question the weakest of the three branches now. Part of that is because we’ve allowed that to happen.”
However, Gowdy says that whenever he and others have called for an investigation into alleged abuses by the Obama administration, the effort immediately becomes politicized. He hopes that under Trump, that will change.
“When you do it in respect to your own team, maybe then the analysis switches to a constitutional analysis and not a political analysis,” Gowdy said. “The House has a responsibility to provide oversight no matter who’s in the White House.”
In a Politico report, Gowdy expanded on this concern slightly, wondering aloud if his fellow legislators will do anything to take back the power they’ve abdicated during the George W. Bush presidency and which continued unchecked during the Obama administration.
“Will we take this opportunity to call back any of the power we have ceded over the last decade with respect to regulatory control, with respect to appropriations?” Gowdy asked.
And like Sanford, Gowdy believes that these are tough times for free speech, a belief he emphasized at a gathering by the Concerned Veterans for America, a group dedicated to defending the First Amendment. Concerned Veterans for America are also seeking to reform the VA.
Gowdy said, “You should have the right to say things that I fundamentally disagree with, Today, the sun may shine on me, but it won’t be that way all the time. Tomorrow, they might want to censor me.”
And if they’re afraid of Sean Hannity and Breitbart, they might even censor themselves.