Monday, January 19, 2015

America's First Very Gay President?


The other day, I noticed one of the polling firms had included Lindsey Graham in their sample. He polled 0%. Yesterday I also noticed that far right firebrand Joe "You Lie" Wilson endorsed Graham for president. Odd. Republicans in South Carolina don't even like him that much. He only polled 56.4% in last years's GOP primary and on election day the other South Carolina senator, Tim Scott won 749,266 votes (61.2%) and Governor Nikki Haley won 689,319 votes (56.0%) while Lindsey struggled to get to 665,605 (54.5%) from the exact same pool of voters. But on Meet the Press yesterday he said he's serious about running. "We set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that will allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path." I wonder if he's looking towards Provincetown, West Hollywood, Fire Island, the Castro, and Key West. NBC, needless to say, didn't ask him anything about his sexual orientation; I think that's not allowed.

Graham has been at odds with many in the GOP over a number of issues and immigration reform is certainly one of them. His more open-minded stance alone, probably disqualifies him to the majority of Republican primary voters. In December he told CNN's State of the Union that "If we don't at least make a down payment on solving the problem and rationally dealing with the 11 million [people in the country illegally], if we become the party of self-deportation in 2015 and 2016, then the chance of winning the White House I think is almost nonexistent." He backs the DREAMers aspirations, another red flag for the bigots and hate-mongers who control the Republican primaries and caucuses. "If the Republican Party cannot muster the political courage to deal with the Dream Act children in a fair and balanced way after we secure our border, that says a lot about the Republican Party's future regarding the Hispanic community. I don't believe most Americans would fault the Republican Party if we allowed children who have been here since they're babies to assimilate into society with a pathway to citizenship after we secure our borders." He's right; most Americans wouldn't. Most Republican primary voters, however, would. McCain is pushing him to run. Right-wing Republicans are less enthusiastic:
Graham, needless to say, is not a favorite among grassroots conservatives, a point we’ll explore further in a moment. First, it’s worth noting that he worked awfully hard to stave off any serious primary challenge in his Senate race last year, waltzing to re-election in a very conservative state. Not an easy feat for a pol in his position. (Let the record reflect that Sen. Tim Scott won by an even larger margin). And it’d be ungenerous not to concede that Graham sometimes does excellent work from his Senate perch; his brutal cross-examination of Chuck Hagel, steadfast opposition to President Obama’s Guantanamo Bay policy, and tenacity on Benghazi come to mind. That said, in what possible universe does he think he’d mount a viable presidential candidacy, especially amid a crowded, talented field? Graham told Hugh Hewitt he’s weighing his options and seeking a “credible” and “competitive” way forward. If such a path exists, I just don’t see it. The supposed raison d’etre for his participation would be to go to bat for the hawkish wing of the party on foreign policy and national security issues, which might make some sense if the emerging field featured a strong anti-interventionist streak. But it doesn’t. Basically everyone in the mix not named “Rand Paul” will be running on a muscular foreign policy platform. If and when Sen. Paul serves up a “let’s mind our own business and not invite blowback” debate answer, virtually everyone on stage will be champing at the bit to push back. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie have already traded overt barbs with Paul on these matters, and part of me thinks that John Bolton’s potential candidacy would be launched with the primary purpose of aggressively confronting the Paul wing of the party in nationally-televised forums. The fact is that Lindsey Graham’s foreign policy worldview will enjoy ample representation among Republican 2016 contenders. In order to justify throwing his hat into the ring, Graham would have to conclude that he’s better equipped to defend that element of his platform than anyone else-- which is what his “uniquely qualified” remark may have been alluding to.

Some Righties may be tempted to go nuclear on “Grahamnesty’s” prospective entry into the race in hopes of scaring him off, but they’d be well advised to keep this instinct in check. If establishment-leaning primary voters end up being forced to choose from among a wide array of center-right options (Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney and Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham and, um, George Pataki), that heavily diffused voting bloc may present the right flank of the GOP electorate with a golden opening to coalesce around a more conservative alternative (if not a Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal, perhaps a “consensus conservative” like Rubio or Scott Walker). Hell, Tea Partiers might even consider printing up ‘Grahamania!’ t-shirts and inundating the Senator’s office with warm words of encouragement.

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