Lindsey Graham Carries Pragmatist Banner into GOP Primaries

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not this journal’s favorite senator by any stretch of the imagination. He is hawkish rather than owlish on foreign policy, and his social values were obsolete during the Great Depression. However, he is preparing for a White House bid that will focus on something the Republic desperately needs, pragmatic conservatism. He’s going to upset a lot of people, and voters will stay away in droves. However in politics, sometimes getting the message out has to come before winning with it can happen.

At the US Capitol yesterday, Senator Graham spoke like a grown up. “I’m not going to tell people things that they emotionally want to hear that I don’t think are going to happen. People are picking up on anger and frustration with the president, which I get. They are turning that anger and frustration into an emotional response to try to get people to vote for them,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is talk about the anger and frustration but also try to get realistic assessments of how we solve these problems. You can’t govern the country based on being angry.” noted “Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995 and is an attorney in the Air Force Reserve, is not without a wide range of votes that add to his baggage headed into 2016. He voted for both of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. He backs Loretta Lynch to be attorney general. He believes climate change is real and that the federal government should do something about it. He’s open to a Simpson-Bowles-type approach to rein in big deficits, something that would raise tax revenues. And he was an architect of the comprehensive immigration bill, something the right wing of his party despises.”

While Ted Cruz and Company want to repeal “every word of Obamacare,” Senator Graham acknowledges that keeping kids on their parents’ policies till 26 and getting rid of insurance denial over pre-existing conditions are decent ideas. “So there are parts of this bill that we would adopt.”

Mr. Cruz, in his announcement speech said, “Instead of a Tax Code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends meet, imagine a simple, flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard. Imagine abolishing the IRS!” Senator Graham, with a sad shake of his head, stated, “We can flatten out the Tax Code. That’s what Simpson-Bowles did. But we aren’t going to abolish the IRS.” After all, someone has to collect the taxes to pay for the military that conservatives like so much.

Under most circumstances, a campaign for president by such a candidate would be dead on arrival. Senator Graham is a long-shot to be sure, but his campaign is likely to survive the first few contests. While he probably won’t win in Iowa or New Hampshire, his home state of South Carolina follows those quite quickly. He could, conceivably, win there. After that, one would expect the money and the grass roots Tea Party crazies to finish him off before the convention. However, he would have made his point with a win in South Carolina and solid showings in some places thereafter. There is room in the GOP for someone who deals with the world as it is rather than how ideologues would like it to be.

Senator Graham said, “‘m trying to lay a realistic picture of the national security and economic threats we face and the solutions that I think are achievable.” This journal disagrees with the senator on his solutions yet remains hopeful for the future of his party because he is arguing from the same set of facts.