Outgoing Republican Rep. Mark Sanford cautioned his constituents on the rise of a “Hitler-like character” in a parting address on Wednesday.
Though a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, the South Carolinian clarified he was not likening the leader of the Republican Party to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler. But he warned the “forces at play” in contemporary politics “could lead to a future Hitler-like character if we don’t watch out.”
“Washington cannot continue to do business as it now does and have our republic survive,” Sanford said in reference to the national debt.
“As open political systems become cumbersome and inefficient, inevitably a strong man comes along and offers easy promises. He says that he can take care of it for us. People desperate for a change accept his offer. They have to give up a few freedoms in the equation to get more security,” Sanford said. “It doesn’t work out so well, as [Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek]’s book in this instance is about the rise of Hitler in post-WWI German history.”
The impending government shutdown prevented Sanford from delivering the address on the House floor last week, but the departing congressman and former governor posted the speech to Facebook.
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State Rep. Katie Arrington ousted Sanford in a primary battle earlier this year where support for Trump was a decisive fault line.
Arrington appealed to the Trump’s base, while Sanford was an occasional thorn in the president’s side on cable news. For example, he staked out opposition to Trump’s violent rhetoric in the wake of the shooting at the Republican team’s congressional baseball practice last year. He said the president’s verbal attacks were “partially” to blame for the country's divisions.
Trump endorsed Arrington on Election Day, slamming Sanford.
“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina,” Trump tweeted, a reference to Sanford’s national notoriety after revelations of his affair with an Argentinian woman.
Trump mocked Sanford’s subsequent defeat at a private meeting with Congressional Republicans. Sanford bristled that the president would pick on him given their alignment on policy.
In his parting speech, Sanford described the difference between Trump's politics and his own deeply conservative views as the “soothing promises of populism” versus the “real math” of budget austerity.
Sanford said his career had been defined by the issue of national debt.
“More than anything, these last 25 years have been about trying in some small way to affect the trajectory of government spending,” he said.
Sanford delivered a dramatic prediction about the future of the economy, arguing that government spending could lead to inflation, which would erode “our way of life.”
“I believe that we are marching our way toward the most predictable financial and economic crisis in the history of our republic,” he said. “If we don’t change course soon, markets will do it for us.”
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., a fellow member of the Freedom Caucus, would “carry the flag forward in this eternal battle,” he said.
Sanford’s challenger Arrington lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the November general election.