Lindsey Graham was always a long shot for the Republican presidential nomination, but the departure of the South Carolina senator from the race ought to be lamented. It is distressing that a candidate with his record of service, thoughtful views and humanistic approach to politics could never get any traction with the GOP base. That he is sidelined while Donald Trump – with his easy answers and appeals to anger and bigotry – seemingly soars should prompt real worry within the Republican Party, not to mention the country at large.
Graham announced on Monday in a YouTube video that he was suspending his presidential campaign; he concluded, “This is not my time.”
He was never able to register more than 1 percent in polling and, under the two-tiered GOP debate structure governing the large field of candidates, was kept off the main stage. Nonetheless, he commanded attention with his smarts, his quick wit and his willingness to identify and speak out on critical issues such as the danger of isolationism and the need for entitlement reform. We didn’t always agree with Graham, notably on social issues including same-sex marriage and abortion, but we respected his principled approach to public office.
He didn’t shirk from staking out positions that put him at odds with the Republican Party extremes that have outsized influence in the primaries. That made him the voice of reason about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, the reality of climate change and trying to work with Democrats to solve problems. He was politically courageous in arguing that the United States would have to deploy ground troops in Syria to defeat the Islamic State; he may yet be proved correct.
Most admirable of all was Graham’s fearlessness in confronting Trump and the serial bigotry – toward women, immigrants, the disabled, Muslims – that has become a trademark of his unfortunate campaign. When other candidates held back and bit their tongues for fear of incurring Trump’s wrath, Graham did not hesitate to do or say the right thing.
Like many others (ourselves included), Graham was befuddled by Trump’s popularity and his sustained position as presidential front-runner.
So while Graham has pledged to support the Republican nominee, whoever it is, we hope he continues to show the principled leadership that marked his failed campaign and draws the line if it comes down to Trump.