Former South Carolina Governor and current Republican nominee for Congress Mark Sanford has his work cut out for him if he wants to win the special election on May 7th, his first attempt at staging a political comeback after being forced to resign his governorship following a very public affair. But that didn’t stop one local county party chairman from adding another: the looks of the female Democratic nominee.
Sanford is running against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a successful South Carolinian businesswoman who easily won her Democratic Party primary last month. But rather than challenging Colbert Busch on policy or credentials, Republicans seem focused on her physical appearance:
“Everybody is really concerned because she’s not a bad-looking lady, she is a good speaker and she’s got some money,” said Jerry Hallman, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party. “In politics, those things are important.”
This is not the first time a female candidate for office has been dismissed as little more than a pretty face with a nice speaking voice, but in the case of Colbert-Busch, who is the older sister of Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert, she has been subjected to an unusual amount of sexist coverage by all corners of the media.
“Why Stephen Colbert’s Sister Could Beat Mark Sanford,” read one headline yesterday, “Stephen Colbert’s sister to run for office” was another. “Right now, the one thing that people know about her is that she is Stephen Colbert’s sister,” was how Sanford himself spoke about his opponent to Morning Joe during an interview yesterday. “Well, at the end of the day, Stephen Colbert is a very popular, well-regarded comedian, but at the end of the day he’s not on the ticket.”
Whether intentional or not, every one of these headlines poses a problem: they continue to define Colbert-Busch not based on her own successes but by the successes of her famous brother. In doing so, it allows readers — and, more importantly, voters — to do the same. Which of course isn’t fair to Colbert-Busch, who has the right to be judged on her own merits.