I have written for 19FortyFive in the past to label Senator Lindsey Graham as Washington’s biggest beta – and relatedly, a reliable weathervane, useful in indicating where the wind is blowing within the GOP.
Now, a beta is commonly understood to be a second-tier individual, occupying a step below the alpha. But what a beta really means is someone who allies with alphas, riding the alpha’s coattails to the top. Graham is a true beta. He is always looking out for a coattail to ride, some fellow Republican to slather over publicly in the hopes of getting a personal political boost.
Graham’s scheming, undignified behavior is hard to watch, but it provides valuable insights to outside observers hoping to gauge GOP trends. Basically, if you want a sense of whose stock is rising or falling, just track how Graham treats that person.
My point is best exemplified in the relationship between Graham and Donald Trump
Outsiders and Insiders
Back when Trump was a political outsider, and Graham was already a bigshot Senator with presidential ambitions of his own – and the right-hand man of former GOP presidential nominee John McCain – Graham told the GOP they should encourage Trump to “go to hell.”
“You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell,” Graham said. “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious 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 added.
Okay, fair enough.
Only, Graham didn’t stick to his guns. The moment Trump won the presidency, Graham made some overnight adjustments, pivoting hard in support of Trump.
“I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” Graham said. “We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years…I’m all in. Keep it up, Donald.”
Well, last fall, when Trump’s stock plummeted to an all-time low, Graham, predictably, hedged his bets. “Sen. Lindsey 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. Graham added that Donald Trump “could be” the best person to represent the GOP in 2024 – a bit of a step-down from the “president I’ve been dreaming of.” But that’s how Graham operates. He’s the GOP’s most prominent beta, their purest fair-weather fan.
A Fair Weather Vane on Donald Trump
So the fact that Graham is suddenly all-in on Trump’s 2024 campaign is significant. Graham told Sean Hannity recently, “I’m for Donald Trump because I know what I’m going to get. We need somebody that, on day one, can get this country back on track. That can secure our border and bring order out of chaos. Somebody that the Russians and the Chinese fear. Somebody that can take the fight to the terrorists.”
Graham also warned off potential GOP challengers, suggesting they could not do what Trump did.
Graham continued, laying it on extra thick: “[Trump] is the best solution to the problems we face, not because of the flaws of others, but because of what I know he can do. And I’m telling your listeners right now when you hear, ‘I like Trump policies, but I’m ready for somebody new’ – there are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
Like, I was saying, it’s hard to watch Graham, and even harder to listen to him. But there’s value, from a forecaster’s perspective, in what Graham has to say. If Graham is all-in behind Donald Trump (for now, anyways) it means Trump still has some juice.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison 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. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.