In Appreciation of Lindsey Graham, the Democrats' Best Friend | Opinion

When things get bleak for Democrats, they often look around for one singular person to save them. In 2012, they turned their eyes to the "Big Dog," the "Secretary of 'Splaining Stuff" Bill Clinton to electrify a convention and propel Barack Obama to a second term. In 2020, they rallied around an un-retired Joe Bidento sweep Donald Trump out of the White House. And now that control of Congress is teetering on the edge, who can Democrats turn to?

I know who I turned to.

The same guy I always look to.

Good ol' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. The best friend Democrats have ever had. And he didn't disappoint.

Republicans were doing everything to run away from the Dobbs decision at the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade, as polls showed it was dragging them down. As candidate after candidate whitewashed their websites, to look more moderate on abortion, it looked as if they might blunt the impact of that decision.

Enter Graham and his "Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act," or PPCUCLTAA. Is that pronounced Pupcooltah? Puhpucuckultay? Peepeecoocoolatah (Creole Lady 1Marmalade)?

Lindsey Graham Laughs
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Regardless of the elegant name Graham has attached to it, it's better known by everyone else as the Republican National Abortion Ban. And just like that, all voters were reminded that despite their protests to the contrary, Republicans would never be satisfied leaving abortion up to the states. They want to take away a woman's right to choose, in all 50 states, through federal law.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about his thoughts on the Republican National Abortion Ban and faithfully repeated the mantra that we know is not actually true: "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level." McConnell blinked multiple times after saying that, which is about as much emotion as anyone has ever seen from the Senate Republican leader.

If McConnell was upset, he shouldn't be surprised. Throughout modern political history, Lindsey Graham has been there to help rescue Democrats in our most dire moments.

Just after the insurrection of Jan. 6, it seemed like Republicans might do the sane thing and finally and permanently separate themselves from Donald Trump. Yes, Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy took to the floor to leave the blame at the feet of the soon-to-be former president. But perhaps no one seemed more emotional about it than Graham, who went to the floor of the Senate and said to "count him out," on what had just happened.

Perhaps realizing that this could hurt Democrats, Graham quickly reversed course and asked to be counted right back in, visiting Trump at Mar-a-lago, and acting as an advisor to Trump's second impeachment legal team. In doing so, he helped re-link Republicans and Trump, allowing Democrats to continue to say the party was under the control of Trump and "MAGA Republicans."

Just two years prior, in the 2018 midterms, questions swirled over whether Democrats would see a "Blue wave," or only make moderate pickups in Congress. In the summer, generic ballot polling had Democrats leading by only 3 points, on average. Determined to help Democrats again, Graham took control of September Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. Rather than show deference and compassion for Christine Blasey Ford, who had just credibly accused Kavanaugh of raping her, during their high school years, Graham went right after her. To underscore the point, he went on a frothed-mouth tirade against Democrats, for even taking an accusation of rape seriously. Just over a month later, Democrats fully realized their Blue Wave.

It wasn't the first time that Graham did all he could to help Democrats in the midterms. Democrats, with Bill Clinton in office, were expected to face the kinds of 1998 midterm losses that a president's party traditionally must accept. Enter the recently departed Ken Starr, the Starr report, and impeachment. Less than one-third of Americans supported impeaching Clinton.The idea was wildly unpopular. Yet Graham, then a young and hungry congressman from South Carolina, pushed extraordinarily hard to help Democrats by not only voting to impeach Clinton, but helping lead the impeachment managers in the Senate trial.

The headline in The New York Times just after the midterms?


One party's "blame" is another party's "thanks." I know who to thank for that, for the 2018 midterms, for yoking Donald Trump around the GOP after the insurrection, and ensuring the party can't run away from its extremist plans on abortion right now.

So, Sen. Graham,when things are the most bleak for Democrats, and it seems like we might not be able to grab electoral wins on our own, you're always there. My feelings for you are best captured in song: "Did I ever tell you you're my hero? You're everything I wish I could be. And I could fly higher than an eagle. For you are the wind beneath my wings."

Eric Schmeltzer is a Los Angeles-based political consultant who served as press secretary to Rep. Jerry Nadler and former-Gov. Howard Dean.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.