To the surprise of everyone, including his most severe critics, Senator Lindsey Graham emerged as a Republican bulldog during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. His searing, angry rants against Democrats for their smear tactics have won him newfound respect on the right and now he says he’s only just begun.
“All I can say is this is going to the streets at the ballot box,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s about to change. I’m going to go throughout this country and let people in these purple states, red states, where Trump won know what I thought, know what I think about this process.”
The usually mild-mannered Graham was the personification of the “get along, go along” culture in the Senate, so his announcement that he would hit the streets in support of GOP candidates in their campaigns against Democrats in red states is a startling turn of events.
Graham’s pledge indicates a rising frustration with Democrats that has reached a tipping point; his willingness to discard civility for his Senate contemporaries on the other side of the aisle to bolster Trump shows a turn-around for the South Carolina Republican. Only a few short years ago, amid a bitter Republican presidential primary, Graham warned that a Trump administration would be “an utter, complete and total disaster.”
Now Graham, though he regularly warns the president against a willingness to embrace perennial U.S. adversaries like North Korea and Russia, is one of Trump’s biggest boosters on Capitol Hill. After his brash TV blitz Sunday, he hit the links with Trump, who has now fulfilled a campaign promise by molding a conservative-leaning Supreme Court with two successful nominees under his belt.
Graham’s newfound partisan juice reached its zenith when he called out Democrats for their despicable tactics during Kavanaugh’s second appearance before the Judiciary Committee:
“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” Graham said of his Democratic colleagues. “To my Republican colleagues, if you vote ‘no’, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing that I have seen in my time in politics.”
He also unapologetically said he is a “single white man” and declared, “I will not shut up” — a harsh rebuttal to Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, telling “the men of this country” to “shut up and step up for once” over the Kavanaugh fight.
I think Graham is realizing what’s at stake in these midterms for the first time. What these “despicable” tactics by Democrats represent is a kind of politics alien to America. It is the politics of the jackboot, the politics of threats, intimidation, bullying, and violence. Graham is trying to impress upon ordinary people the threat that this kind of politics represents to the very notion of freedom and liberty.
Senator Graham has now gone from John McCain’s reliable sidekick to Road Warrior. And the transformation just might help Republicans maintain control of Congress.