Lindsey Graham is totally irrelevant as a contender in the 2016 Republican Primary season, barely registering a blip on the radar of any poll.
Having said that, he still remains a shining repository of stale and silly conventional Republican establishment thinking. These misguided beltway conceptions are the fault line threatening to fracture the potential Republican vote – thereby ushering Hillary Clinton into the Oval Office and perhaps empowering Democrats in the Senate as well.
Thus Graham’s words are illustrative whenever he goes off on one of his girlish rants about saving the Republican party from itself, which he has done twice recently. This salvation “from itself” mission has been the template that undergirds the entire Graham for President effort (a silly concept on its face) – and was what prompted him to ditch his prepared remarks recently and take out after Ted Cruz at the Republican Jewish Coalition, and in saying a day later that we should tell Donald Trump to go to hell. The latter was just and extension of his multi-month – and totally ineffective – crusade against Trump.
Can you imagine Graham ever telling Barack Obama or Chuck Schumer – or any Democrat for that matter – to go to hell?
To fully understand what Graham means by saving the party, we must define the “Republican Party” as the House of Cards GOP establishment in Washington – and define “itself” as the conservative base electorate. Yes Graham, like the entire DC establishment, bizarrely think that the only way to save the GOP is to reject its best potential customers and its natural constituency. You can only get such wizardry in Washington.
Concerning which, the entire sorcery of the brilliant ones in Washington can be boiled down to a few words: Mr. Candidate, elections are always decided by the 20% in the middle, and the only way to win that 20% is to pretend to be Democrat-lite and not offend anyone. And only we can help you do that. Now, that will be 25 thou a month and 3% on the ad buy. Oh, and ten points on the fund raising. Deal?
That’s it. It’s no deeper than that. This shallow philosophy is what passes as deep insight in the Republican establishment. This thinking also envelopes media mavens like Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, George Will and the entire Wall Street Journal team. And yes, let’s include faux Republican tokens like David Brooks at the NY Times and Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post for good measure.
They all believe this, and they do so with an angry elitist arrogance that borders on psychosis. Yes, psychosis, because such a theory does not come close to standing the test of external reality – not in the past 35 years. It’s quite the opposite in fact.
Consider a very rapid and generalized trip down memory lane: Ronald Reagan has the two most impressive wins during that time, and he totally rejected the “pale pastels” notion of running as a moderate Democrat-lite. George H.W. Bush, running as Reagan’s third term, won easily as well. Once H.W. Bush 41 ran as a moderate – which he clearly did in 1992 – he got spanked by Bill Clinton and only received 38% of the popular vote, embarrassing for any incumbent.
In 1996, Dole-Kemp ran a classic establishment moderate campaign and the results were disastrous. Need I mention the efforts of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012? More of the same. Mushy campaign. Big Democrat win.
And this theory is borne out in mid-terms as well. The three big historical victories won by Republicans during these 35 years were the mid-terms of 1994, 2010 and 2014. These are, not coincidentally, the three off year cycles when there was a rather clear, partisan and ideological essence to the Republican campaigns. It was not a case of going right in the primaries and veering to the center for the general. It was a case of articulating why conservatives are right and liberals are wrong.
Sure, there are some other nuances – but the biggest underlying factor in all three cycles was the philosophical battle over whether a corrupt and incompetent government should run our lives or not – as championed by a government take over of health care. (Hillary-Care in 94, and Obama Care in ’10 and ’14). Those were obviously foundational philosophical battles.
History is crystal clear. When elections are ideological – and the divide is large and obvious – Republicans win big. When elections are unclear philosophically, and the differences are not stark and clear, Democrats win big. When the ideological gap is somewhere in the middle, the races are always very close. Think GWB in 2000 and 2004.
And yet, today’s establishment insists that history is on their side. They strangely ignore everything since 1980 and harken back to Barry Goldwater in 1964 to prove their case.
Graham is just an extension of John McCain’s anti Goldwater message of mushiness. So are Jeb Bush and John Kasish. This is the Karl Rove wing of the party. This is the wing that will fight brutally and ruthlessly against Reagan – against Trump and Cruz – and that savaged Newt Gingrich and immediately insisted that Barack Obama “is a nice guy.”
They harbor the fantasy that it’s a good thing in the primary to destroy your own party, and yet the only way to win the General is to go full kid glove. It’s absurd. It’s demonstrably false. It’s 180 degrees out of phase with historical reality. It is, classically, the Rove – Stupid Republican Establishment.
Edmund Wright is a contributor to Breitbart, American Thinker, Newsmax TV and Talk Radio Network, and author of several books including Amazon elections Best Seller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.