There’s not much doubt that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a conservative. When he was in Congress, he helped manage the Clinton impeachment and he was basically John McCain’s BFF during the 2008 presidential campaign. But he’s apparently not conservative enough for some people in his state and in his party, who think he’s a Republican In Name Only (RINO).
At a Graham town hall in Greenville […], activist Harry Kimball of “RINO HUNT” protested by constructing a display that depicted Graham, as well as moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), being flushed down a toilet:
KIMBALL: This is for every RINO who has failed to represent us. […] [the toilet represents] flushing them, flushing them.
One attendee of the event asked the senator, “when are you going to announce that you are switching parties?” The question drew loud applause from the crowd. Graham defended himself, and denounced the influence of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) on the Republican party:
GRAHAM: I’m going to grow this party, I’m not going to let it get [inaudible], I’m not going to let it be hijacked by Ron Paul. […] I’m going to find people in Maine, Delaware, Illinois, other places–
AUDIENCE: Move there!
GRAHAM: That can win as Republicans, and I’m going to go up, and we’re going to move this party, and this country forward, and if you don’t like it, you can leave.
Mr. Graham received a bit of notice a couple of weeks ago for his candid remarks about Glenn Beck — “Only in America can you make that much money crying” — and he went against the right-wing tide by voting to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor and dissing the birther movement, calling them “crazy.” In other words, Mr. Graham is showing glimmers of sanity. But when the control group is Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and Orly Taitz, it’s not exactly a tough standard to achieve.
But before we hand out any kudos to Mr. Graham for his forthrightness, let’s not forget that his realization that the Republican party is in the hands of fanatics bordering on the dangerous smells of both desperation and opportunism. It’s a little late to have an OMG moment; where was he when all of this started? Why, he was right in there pitching it. Sure, he probably thought it was just politics and nobody really takes the campaign rhetoric seriously… except the people in the base of his party who are all too willing to listen to someone, whether it’s on talk radio or in a campaign fund-raiser mass e-mail, tell them that Barack Obama is going to take away your guns, your Medicare, and probably your birthday, and open up an abortion clinic run by a married gay couple from Tijuana next door. And now he wants to be seen as the temperate voice of the party, telling the hard-righties to leave the party if they don’t want to become more inclusive and forward-thinking. Why, that sounds almost “mavericky,” doesn’t it? But they tried that bit before; how’d that work out?
In one respect I wish Mr. Graham a lot of luck in trying to rein in the whirlwind that the GOP has become, but it’s a little late to bemoan the fact that your party has gone over the cliff when you helped take it there.