Lindsey Graham, the respectable dropout

Dropping out of a presidential race usually means that you become invisible and forgotten on the American political stage. Quite simply, you become a political nobody. Invitations to appear an the Sunday talk shows vanish. Your national persona abruptly disappears and you are no longer considered "quotable." In the terrible parlance of Trump, you are deemed a loser. I have always hated that word and find it difficult to label anyone with that moniker. (Although once Trump starts losing, I will label him just that, over and over again.)


Among the Republicans, Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) and just this week, former Gov. George Pataki (N.Y.), have each dropped out and no one hardly remembers or cares. (No discussion of dropouts is complete without mentioning former U.N. Ambassador and perpetual warmonger John Bolton, who dropped out before he even announced.) They didn't leave much of an impression or any kind of impact. Walker and Perry — in 2012 — were once even considered, for a very brief period, front-runners.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is different. He is not going away; he will be around for some time and is enjoying every minute of it. Unlike the previously mentioned, he is a sitting member of the U.S. Senate. First elected in 2002, he has easily been reelected in 2008 and 2014 and has withstood the challenges of far-right conservatives in his own party. He is considered safe in South Carolina.

I don't agree, or in any way share Graham's political philosophy or ideology, but I do admire his candor and courage. This is a guy who truly says what he thinks and doesn't pretty it up. He can be blunt and likes to be graphic and colorful. Most of the time he speaks in the everyday vernacular. No pol-speak. You actually can easily figure out where he stands on an issue; none of that "on one hand and on the other hand" garbage. Graham is not afraid to go against his party and even his own Senate leadership on important votes. He was the only Judiciary Committee Republican to support Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court in 2009. In 2010 he voted for Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, as well.

Some of his stated views are viewed as heresy by conventional GOP members. He was for a limited nationalization of some banks and believes in stress-tests for some banks. He went so far as to say "I'm not going to be the Herbert Hoover of 2009." He's gone after the Tea Party and has attempted to work out a bipartisan proposal for immigration that includes a path toward citizenship for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented workers. Even on Social Security, he leaves his party and is open to raising the payroll tax ceiling, if that will lead to a permanent solution for financing the program.

If all that is not enough, he pushed for his friend John McCain to pick "independent Democrat" and then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) as his running mate in 2008. Graham is way too hawkish for me on foreign policy to the point of being reckless and dangerous, but the man is, above all, not predictable or namby-pamby. What you see and hear from him is genuine and sincere. He doesn't play the angles. Finger to the political winds is not his game or style. He doesn't crave popular approval. Graham is substantive and well-informed. At times you might view him as misguided or just plain wrong, but he is a serious public figure.

When and if all hell breaks loose at the GOP convention in Cleveland, Graham won't be hiding from view or watching meekly from the sidelines. He will jump into the fray and speak up and shape the future of his party. Lindsay Graham is the respectable dropout.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.