The beta role is commonly misunderstood to be submissive to the alpha, a secondary figure. That’s not quite right, however. The beta role is more nuanced; a true beta hitches to an alpha, like a parasite, and through the alpha’s success, also rises. Senator Lindsey Graham is an archetype beta – always scheming, always attaching himself to the winning horses. While Graham’s behavior is socially disappointing, the Senator serves a useful purpose as something of a political weathervane; if you want to gauge who’s up and who’s down, just track where Graham is aligned that week.
Graham, who was once John McCain’s right-hand-man, has a whimsical, unprincipled nature that is best exemplified through his relationship with Donald Trump. When Trump was a long-shot presidential candidate, still very much on the outside of GOP politics, Graham was a vicious critic.
In 2015, Graham urged the GOP to encourage Trump to “go to hell.”
“You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell,” Graham said on CNN’s New Day. Later, Graham expanded his criticisms of Trump. “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religoius bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for … he’s the ISIL man of the year.”
“What Mr. Trump is doing – and I don’t think he has a clue about anything. He’s just trying to get his numbers up and get the biggest reaction he can,” Graham said.
Indeed, Graham led the charge against Trump during the 2015 campaign. But once Trump had secured the presidency, Graham performed a whiplash-inducing pivot. “I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” Graham said on Fox & Friends. “We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.” Graham continued, calling the new administration “music to my ears.”
“I am all in. Keep it up, Donald,” Graham said. Right. The two even become golf buddies. “Really enjoyed a round of golf with President @realDonaldTrump today,” Graham tweeted, beta-style.
Graham continued in that vein, that syrupy-sweet sycophancy for six years straight, often serving as Trump’s most vital collaborator in the Senate and inspiring headlines like History Will Judge the Complicit. Now, however, as Trump’s hold on the GOP wobbles ever so slightly – thanks to the emergence of Ron DeSantis – Graham is hedging his bets.
“Sen. Lindsay Graham said former President Donald Trump would be a strong contender in the 2024 presidential election if he could only curb his personality,” Business Insider reported. “Speaking in an interview with CNBC, Graham said he believes Trump “could be” the best person to represent the Republican Party in 2024.”
“Whether you like Trump or not, he was a consequential president,” Graham said. “I think a strong American president – unpredictable – is a good thing as long as you keep it within the boundaries. His problem is personal, his policies have stood the test of time, but has he worn the American people out in terms of his personality? Time will tell. But I’ll say this, after the Biden presidency, if there’s a policy debate in 2024, I like his chances. If it’s a personality contest, he’ll be in trouble.”
We can deduce from Graham’s statements that Trump is not a lock for the 2024 election. We can also deduce that the GOP is perceiving that their mainstream constituents are perceiving Trump as a boorish schmuck – but that at the end of the day, he’s still a conservative and, ergo, still their guy. If Trump declares his candidacy, and if Trump appears poised to win the GOP nomination, expect Graham to revert back into sycophant-mode.
Alternatively, keep an eye out for Graham commentary on Trump as it could offer insights into who is actually for running in 2024. And keep an eye out for what I expect are forthcoming sound clips of Graham endlessly praising Ron DeSantis.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.