Politics

Rep. Sanford: GOP Risks Succumbing to Trump’s ‘Cult of Personality’

South Carolina Republican said president is ‘autocratic in style’ in blistering remarks over weekend

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., lost his June primary to pro-Trump candidate Katie Arrington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

GOP Rep. Mark Sanford issued a blistering rebuke of President Donald Trump over the weekend, saying the president is “autocratic in style” and that Republicans are at risk of becoming a “cult of personality” around the mercurial leader of the free world.

At a panel in New York Saturday, the former South Carolina governor, was asked to explain why he lost his primary to staunchly pro-Trump candidate Katie Arrington.

“The beauty of the American political experiment is we can agree to disagree. You might have a very liberal perspective, I might have a conservative perspective, but we can sit at the table and begin to hash out ideas,” Sanford told CNBC.

“The danger I believe of Donald Trump is he is autocratic in style,” Sanford said, which “is not conducive to the open debate of ideas which has been the hallmark of Americans.”

Sanford was critical of Trump long before he lost his party’s nomination to Arrington by 4 points in June.

That earned the president’s ire. So the president turned on him before the election and backed his challenger.

“He went after me in my primary and I lost my primary,” Sanford said Saturday.

“During her victory celebration, [Arrington’s] words were, ‘We are the party of Donald Trump.’ I could not disagree” more, he said.

Arrington’s campaign rhetoric centered mostly around her ardent support for the man in the White House — and targeted Sanford for the times he has criticized him.

The Republican party risks deteriorating into “a cult of a personality” around Trump, Sanford said.

“Our Founding Fathers were so deliberate in forming a nation of laws and not men, and if we go against that in the slightest form, we are playing with fire,” he said.

Arrington will face Democrat Joe Cunningham in the November 6 general election. Trump carried the district by double digits in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

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