It’s hard to imagine a Republican more useless than South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Whether spearheading legislation that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, stumping for the $787 billion taxpayer theft known as “TARP,” being the lone GOP committee vote to confirm liberal Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, or his recent joining with John Kerry to promote cap-and-trade—without shame and without fail—conservatives have never had a friend in Graham.
And yet in 2008, Graham was reelected in the deep Red State of South Carolina over a Democratic candidate, Bob Conley, who staunchly opposed amnesty, TARP and was well to the right of Lindsey in almost every respect. Many dubbed Conley a “Ron Paul Democrat,” given his support for the Texas Congressman during the Republican presidential primary and in that senatorial election the conservative “D” lost to the liberal “R” thanks purely to party affiliation. Rest assured, Lindsey Graham would like to keep things this way.
And Ron Paul would not. Comparing the 2008 Paul campaign with every other Republican who ran for president that year is a study in contrasts. Paul remained a Republican out of political necessity, sometimes seemingly regrettably, despite his continuing disappointment with his party’s lack of serious commitment to limited government principles. Every other GOP candidate, from talk radio favorite Mitt Romney to eventual nominee John McCain, would mouth occasional limited government rhetoric despite their lack of a voting record to match, seeming most interested in their ascendancy in the Republican Party and the power it affords.
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When confronted by a crowd of tea partiers, town hall protesters and other angry grassroots conservatives at a meeting in Greenville this week, Graham reacted to criticism leveled against him by attacking one man: “We’re not going to be the Ron Paul party … I love this party … I’m not going to let it be hijacked by Ron Paul … Ron Paul’s run for president like 39 times. He keeps losing.”
Graham is right. The limited government philosophy that Paul believes once was, and could be again, the guiding principle of the Republican Party, keeps losing. Despite the Founding Fathers best intentions, the Constitution that has remained the only guideline for every vote Paul has cast during his decades-long career in Congress, has been badly damaged by politicians from both parties. To “hijack” the Republican Party, Paul would have to inspire a genuine revolution, not only in the way our government conducts its business but in what Americans think about how much business their government should be conducting. For Paul, the battle has never been about “Republican” vs. “Democrat” but limited government vs. unlimited government and there’s never been any question about which side Paul stands on.
On the other side, you’ll find Graham. As the quintessential GOP establishment man, the big government Republicanism that defined the Bush era had no greater champion than Graham. Conservatives who now trash Lindsey for siding with the Democrats have short memories, as it was Bush who first promoted amnesty, who “abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system” with TARP, and grew our government and debt to record heights. At every turn, Graham was Bush’s boy. Now says Graham, “I’m going to grow this party,” which is comical considering his last attempt at Republican resurrection resulted in the sound defeat of his political life-partner, John McCain, who voters rightly saw as a continuation of the unpopular Bush. Today, Graham’s GOP remains wedded to recycling Bush-era, big government policy, always stamped with an elephant insignia and always designed to fool rank-and-file conservatives into voting against their better interests.
But now, too many are tired of being played for fools. The angry crowd that confronted Graham at a town hall meeting in Greenville this week were but the most vocal representatives of an ever-growing group of Americans who are fed up with both the excesses of Bush and the even worse excesses of Obama. For the first time in a long time, many Americans are looking back to the Founding Fathers, holding up their Constitution and seriously reexamining the role of government in their lives. This is fertile ground for an admitted “revolutionary” like Ron Paul. This is dangerous ground for protectors of the status quo like Lindsey Graham. “We’re not going to be the Ron Paul party” Graham will continue to say defiantly, but can no longer say definitely.
And neither can Paul. While any future Republican Party worth having must indeed, finally be “hijacked” by the principles of limited, constitutional government, big government Republicans like Graham would like nothing more than a safe return to the good old Bush days when constituents would just keep their mouths shut, wallets open and their votes-a-comin.’
If this happens—and there’s a good chance it might—conservatives, constitutionalists and patriots of all stripes interested in genuine political revolution must finally to go to whichever party, old or new, that best suits their interests. And Lindsey Graham and his retread Republican Party—can go to hell.