Lindsey Graham, you're on your own
In recent years, there have been few high profile Republican politicians who devoted themselves to President Trump more publicly and more slavishly than Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Words like "toady" and "lapdog" were often used to describe the senator's submissiveness. Apparently, that almost complete loyalty wasn't enough for Graham to earn a little loyalty in return.
The trump cards of the conservative ecosphere have made it clear in recent weeks that they are ready to give up Graham - who is embroiled in a close re-election race with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison - even if it means losing his Senate seat. "I don't know why anyone in the great state of South Carolina would ever vote for Lindsey Graham. It's just plain outrageous," said Fox Business host Lou Dobbs last week.
"It's about time" Graham was defeated, added a writer on the right-wing American Greatness website.
Graham has never been particularly popular among hardcore Conservatives, but it's still shocking to see them turn on a Republican candidate in a tight general election campaign. For right-wing activists, the senator's problem is that he only stands up to Trump's wishes 97 percent instead of 100 percent. Dobbs pointed out, for example, that Graham - in his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee - did not pursue any evidence of the fake "Obamagate" scandal that Trump attempted - and failed to start. It's the same reason Trump talked about getting rid of FBI Director Christopher Wray after the election.
"He's done absolutely nothing to investigate Obamagate other than telling everyone," Hang on, "over and over. Hang on," Dobbs said. "Senator Graham must be eliminated in South Carolina."
The rhetoric could jeopardize Graham's election campaign: if even a small segment of South Carolina Conservatives decide to withhold support, he could lose his seat. Trump could potentially discourage attacks on Graham if he wanted, but so far he hasn't. One has to wonder if the President had Graham in mind last week when he told GOP donors that there are some Republican Senators he just cannot support for re-election.
"There are a couple of senators that I can't really get involved with," Trump said. "I just can't do it. You will lose your soul if you do it. I can't help some of them. I don't want to help some of them."
Trump worries about his soul? This is the same man who endorsed Roy Moore for the Senate back in 2017, while Moore was under a cloud of allegations in his thirties of having relationships with teenage girls. More recently, Trump endorsed QAnon conspiracy supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, calling her a "future Republican star." It is difficult to determine the limits of Trump's conscience.
But Trump's silence on Graham - and his willingness to piss off other GOP candidates of dubious loyalty such as Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) - suggests the president either doesn't understand or doesn't I don't care how important a GOP-controlled Senate might be to govern in its own possible second term.
The Republicans in the Senate have already saved Trump from impeachment. Probably the president liked this security blanket. Should Trump win re-election and the Democrats take over the Senate, he will likely face more scrutiny and scrutiny of both his personal affairs and his government work. His greatest achievement, piling up the judiciary with conservative judges, was likely to stall. Trump would not be completely powerless in such a scenario - he could accelerate the pace of deregulation and continue abusing the Justice Department - but his life would likely be much more difficult.
Other presidents have recognized that their power depends, of course, on their relationships with the House and Senate, which is why they usually grin and tolerate criticism from elected members of their party. Usually they see the big picture of an effective exercise of power and know that when a senator or member of Congress expresses a little independence, they shouldn't take it personally. But Trump has shown little consideration for the government's legislature, and there is no evidence to interest him well beyond his own ego and well-being.
So it seems that Lindsey Graham has to turn in the wind. And Republicans are at greater risk of losing their Senate majority.
It's hard to feel sorry for Graham. Any reasonable observer has seen that for Trump, loyalty is a one-way street. But Graham did exist and demanded it from others. "For any Republican, if you don't stand by this president, we won't stand by you," Graham told a crowd in South Carolina last year. Which begs the question: who is behind Lindsey Graham now?
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