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Politics & Government

GOP Representative Weighs In On New Congress

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The official results in Florida are not expected to help the Democrats. But the party still won big this midterm, making gains particularly among women and young voters. Latinos and other minorities came out stronger and voted Democratic, too. One of the reddest districts to flip blue was in South Carolina. In the first district, Representative Mark Sanford was first beaten by the substantially Trumpier (ph) candidate Katie Arrington in the primary. But on Tuesday, the Democrat won - a first for that district in 40 years. Writing in The New York Times, Mark Sanford said that the midterms should be a wake-up call for the GOP. And he joined us to tell us why.

MARK SANFORD: I think as a Republican Party, we've drifted away from some of our historic moorings that have served the party very, very well, one of which is the environment. You have a lot of people who are staunch conservatives in financial terms. But they're equally staunch in believing that conservativism ought to apply to more than just financial resources, that it should apply to natural resources as well. And the other thing that we've drifted from, going while I'm on that theme, is this notion of watching the bottom line of financial prudence. We're marching away toward what I believe to be the most predictable financial crisis in the history of man, and nobody's sounding the alarm.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Practically speaking, though, there is a divide now among the Republican base. How do you appeal to rural voters who increasingly make up the GOP base without losing the suburban voters that didn't go Republican this election?

SANFORD: I think the people vote pocketbook issues, whether you're in rural Ohio or whether you're in suburban South Carolina. You need to give conservatives a reason to show up. And if you're not, again, standing watch with regard to the way that their money is spent in a state capital or a local city hall or in Washington, D.C., you give them reasons to stay home.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You said that the Republican Party needs to do an autopsy of these midterm elections. There was an autopsy done after 2012 when President Obama won. And the conclusion was that the party needed to widen its tent. Then Donald Trump came along. And not only did the tent shrink as a result of the anti-immigration rhetoric this time around, but you actually alienated white suburban women, which has been part of the Republican base.

SANFORD: You know, I can't explain away that which I have disagreed with. This idea of shrinking the base is a problem. And so you can't be just the party of white men, end of story. That's not going to work in the body politic in the United States. People want to have a more inclusive way of approaching politics and a more inclusive language that includes that politics.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is some discussion that President Trump needs to be primaried by another Republican come 2020. Are you in that camp?

SANFORD: Yeah. I mean, you know, Jeff Flake said that, I think, as late as a couple of days ago. I would concur with that. I mean, you know, politics has to be about ideas. And there always ought to be the testing of those ideas. You know, we've had, you know, sort of a brush-up and a dance with populism, in essence, about every hundred years in our country. People fear globalization, what might come next with it. There are a lot of legitimate fears out there. And I think that unfortunately, he's played to some of those. But that's the cycle we're in right now. I don't think it'll last forever.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your term is up in a few weeks. You were a two-term governor of South Carolina, a congressman. Will you run for office again?

SANFORD: I don't know is the answer. If there's ever a guy who would never say never, it's me, given my different waves in the world of politics. And so we'll see. But at this point, it's not on the drawing boards.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, a Republican. Thank you so very much.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.