Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) was one of the early victims of President Donald Trump's hostile takeover of the Republican Party when he became the nominee in 2016. According to Sanford, however, it was easier to ditch the party because the GOP didn't really stand for anything anyway.
"Before Donald Trump's arrival in Washington, the conservative movement as represented by the Republican Party had devolved into a lukewarm mess," he wrote according to Business Insider. "Reality was the Republican Party didn't really represent conservatism any longer."
The GOP for years had flirted with conspiratorial extremism thanks to the Tea Party and birther movements, and Sanford explained that once Trump came in, there were no longer any principles for the GOP to hold onto. While some in the GOP might say that they believe in "freedom," he argued that Trump was undercutting that ideology by embracing people like Vladimir Putin.
"There was no strong objection within Republican circles to what Trump began to change in the Grand Old Party because to many of them, the GOP had come to stand for surprisingly little," he wrote. "The people who truly believed in conservative ideals were disillusioned and tired of the Republican Party's abysmal efforts to advance their ideas."
Sanford was caught having an extra-marital affair while he was serving as governor of South Carolina -- and he resigned in disgrace.
So, the idea that someone like Trump could come in with his past and lack of morals and be embraced by the GOP was frustrating to Sanford.
"And then fast forward and along comes a guy who personifies all of the opposite things that I thought God and circumstance and other people were trying to teach me post-09. And this guy is running for president?" he wrote. "And then he gets the nomination and then he becomes president."
He went on to recall that in the early days of the Trump-takeover he wasn't alone.
"The whole thing was all so contrary to the idea of a pluralistic society and an institution of checks and balances. It's like this guy would make a great dictator, but that's not what the American system is about," Sanford wrote. "Mind you, I wasn't alone at that time. The Freedom Caucus, of which I was a part, basically went all out against him initially in what they said but then they all flipped, except for people like Justin Amash who I have great respect for."
Amash is gone, as are other Republican anti-Trumpers like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
"It got lonelier and lonelier fast," he explained. "I remember having a rather heated conversation with a major donor of mine and his point was, the guy is far less than perfect but he is a Republican president and there's only one quarterback and it's your role to support the quarterback. My point was, no, it's my role to support the ideas and ideals that the party has stood for, that the quarterback is actually supposed to be supporting too."
Now he's alone in a political world that has shifted far away from conservatism with a greater focus on social issues and petty score settling.
"I am a citizen with no country," Sanford described. "I am an unabashed conservative in the Jeffersonian sense and right now, if you believe in those ideals, you certainly don't find it in the Republican party and it's even been lost within the movement itself of late because there is no movement."
He also detailed what he remembered about the 2017 inauguration and how bizarre it was to watch Trump with his wife Melania.
"I remember being struck by the way Trump did not include his wife as he walked up to the edge of the dais and took in the moment and the adulation of the crowd that stretched before him," Sanford wrote. "I watched Melania intently, wondering what she was thinking. All I knew was there was no way my former wife, Jenny, nor the wife of any friend would have put up with this."
He continued: "What I didn't appreciate in that moment was how Melania's nonreaction of placid indifference to Trump's behavior would be mirrored by millions. As the band took up 'Hail to the Chief,' there was not a whisper from any of the party leaders that Trump was hijacking the Republican brand. Why would there be? You can't change what you no longer have, and people generally don't get agitated about losing something that is not theirs."
Sanford's new book, Two Roads Diverged, went on sale Tuesday.