July 1st, 2010
12:23 PM ET
4 years ago

Graham: Tea Party 'unsustainable'

Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Tea Party movement is 'unsustainable.'
Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Tea Party movement is 'unsustainable.'

(CNN) – Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is frequently at odds with conservative activists in his own state, predicts the Tea Party movement will eventually "die out" despite the political energy it's generating during this midterm election year.

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine posted online Thursday, the South Carolina Republican lamented the state of his party and doubted whether the Tea Party movement will survive.

"The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country," Graham told the magazine, recounting his private meetings with members of the movement. "It will die out."

Graham, who was re-elected in 2008, has been censured by multiple county party organizations in his home state because of his bipartisan efforts to fix immigration and energy policy.

He acknowledged that those stances put him at sharp odds with the Tea Party movement, which other GOP leaders have sought to accommodate ahead of the midterm elections. His fellow South Carolina Senator, Jim DeMint, is regarded as something of a hero among Tea Party activists nationwide.

"Everything I'm doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo is completely opposite of where the Tea Party movement's at," he said.

Graham stressed his belief that the GOP must welcome different viewpoints if it wants to be competitive in the future.

"We don't have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats," he told the magazine, "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

UPDATE: On CNN's "The Situation Room," conservative radio host Bill Bennett offered a different prediction about the Tea Party movement's future.

"I will predict right now the Tea Parties will outlast the political viability of Lindsey Graham," Bennett said. "But I hope they both survive a long time."

Bennett said Tea Party activists "are not there to govern."

"That's not what the Tea Parties are there for," he said. "Tea parties are a way for people to voice their dissent, their disagreement, to address their grievances, as Thomas Jefferson said."


Filed under: 2010 • Lindsey Graham • Popular Posts • South Carolina • Tea Party movement
soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. Mikey

    Hey Doofis: You are kidding, right? The Founding Fathers were liberals, not Conservatives. The Tory Party was, and still is, the conservative party in Britian. Teabaggers are reactionary consevatives and would have fought change in 1776, just as they are now. They don't want progress, they want to take us back to the 50's. The only question is, is it the 1950's, the 1850's, or the 1650's?

    July 1, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. Marcus

    Now let's see, one of the most narrow minded conservatives of the Congress is calling the Tea Party 'unsustainable'...
    Smoke and mirrors for the public view or is he talking seriously?
    Supposing that he is, just supposing, then it might be interesting to see to where this story will lead on...

    July 1, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. jake747

    I agree with Graham. I'm so disappointed with the Tea Party. Ron Paul had me excited. But then you look at the candidates they are supporting and it's a total joke. Bachmann and Ron's son Rand immediately jumped to the side of a FOREIGN corporation that trashed our Gulf of Mexico instead of backing hardworking Americans and our national treasures. I'll NEVER forgive Paul for his comments. Then you have that nut Sharon Angle in Nevada who used to be a democrat, now is doing anything she can to further her own power. She's totally incoherent on issues. Then there's the swindler Scott in Florida who's company committed medicare fraud.

    And, all the talk about opposing the ridiculous drug war, and now none of these Tea Party candidates are saying anything about it. Instead the focus on crying for poor BP and opposing common sense things like Social Security and the Civil Rights Act.

    This is it huh? These are the candisates the Tea Party is giving us? Freaks willing to say anything to get Tea Party money. None of them are anything like Ron Paul. Total joke of a movement.

    July 1, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  4. OMD

    The Tea Partiers remind me of the Michael Moore and Ralph Nader Democrats that split the Democratic vote in 2004 and let the Republicans win a second term. The TP'ers will do the same for the Republicans in 2012. Long live the TP'ers.

    July 1, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. tim

    I completely agree with Sen. Graham. The tea party is unsustainable for the exact reason that he pointed out "because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country". This is the exact problem with the "tea party". They are have no leadership, no platform, no direction. They want to change things but have not offered a single constructive solution to solve a single problem this nation faces. They are a bunch of fringe radicals who like to yell and scream about reform, but do little to change things.

    July 1, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. VB Lincoln Park NJ

    Glad to see the Senator telling it like it is!

    July 1, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. A. Goodwin

    "I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country."

    Wow...seems to me the Tea Baggers and the GOP have a lot in common!!

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. chris

    Mr. Rational, let me say this to you. The President being black has nothing to do with the Tea Party Movement unless they are all racist. Understand this we are no longer in the 50's and 60's. Times have changed, accept it. This President has stood up for what he believes in and I think it a travesty that us as Americans have to be heinous in our words to instill race. Grow the hell up.

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. chatmandu002

    Lindsey Graham can be replaced. And probably should be.

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. stormy miller

    the tea part is a joke and has been a joke since their beginning. of course they will not last

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Cbass

    I wish there were more republicans like Lindsey Graham!

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. ART

    Never the less it is still frightening that the KKK, sorry i meant the tea baggers have such a voice in the Republican party

    July 1, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  13. Alton

    He is right of course. The Tea Baggers seem to be taking a page from PETA. The idea is to be as extreme as possible and hope that your extreme views will nudge the centrist population to your side a little. I am a Libertarian and they have been following this philosophy for years (with no sucess I might add).

    The problem with this philosophy is that ,when you are that extreme, people either already agree with your views and support you (the minority) or people end up thinking you are NUTS and discount you entirely. I mean come on, when was the last time PETA did something really extreme and you thought to yourself "you know, I think I will become a vegetarian". You are more likely to go eat a hamburger to show those crazies a thing or two.

    July 1, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  14. What did they say?

    Wow, that's the first sensible thing he's said all week. Now let's figure out why the Republicans are still being led by Rush Bimbo.

    July 1, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Larry

    Mitch is exactly spot on. The Tea Party and all these ultra right wing idiots will fade into the ether when Obama completes his TWO terms. These racists simply cannot deal with the fact that we have a black man as their president. They'll never admit that's the reason, but it is what it is.

    July 1, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. Seth, minnesota

    Ha. By all means run Lindsey Graham and elect a crazy Tea Partier like Rand Paul and Sharon Angle. But don't cry when the inbred GOP you create ends up irrelevant. When the hispanic populations in AZ, TX, and NV turn those states blue, you'll see what a mess you made of the Republican party. And sure, you can keep OK, UT SC, TN and AL.

    July 1, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Don

    Be careful Sen Graham. Statesman are a limited commodity these days. I would hate to lose you for simply speaking the truth.

    July 1, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. Nadeem

    The sad fact is Grahsm is right, and unfortunaltely the GOP are lock step with the team party right now.

    What exactly is the tea party for beyond smaller government (expcept when they are for it with more boder troops and more gov't involvment in the clean up with tx payer money)

    Reagan had a vision for the country and led an inclusive party. I know that many dems hate it when you compare Reagan and Obama but they are very similar.

    July 1, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. jake747

    Wow, the conservative posters here sound like straight up fascists. Dare anyone stray from the narrow world view of the Tea Nuts?!? Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, etc...they would all be crucified by the modern Tea Party. Eisenhower warned of oil dependence, Roosevelt was a hardcore conservationist who believed government should take on big corrupt businesses, Reagan was pro-space exploration and government funded R&D (the Tea Partiers basically think government should have no role in promoting scientific and technological advancements), and Nixon really was nowhere close to their positions.

    Do you all hear yourselves? Really? Wipe out anyone who dares speak against the party line? Do any of you know anything about world history?

    July 1, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    The Tea Party has been an excellent organization to provide a strong voice for tens of million of Americans with a shared philosophy of governance. This is in many ways overlapping with traditional views of the Republican Party, but what is Sen. Graham's point? Does he not understand grass roots organizations? Is he threatened by this? The purpose is just to have a shared voice. And it's working.

    July 1, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. ehwilson429

    Graham is the worst possible kind of Repub. he is a RINO.
    he needs to be recalled or impeaqched or better yet IMPRISONED!

    July 1, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. Ralph

    +++ As TEA party protesters, it is not our job to “come up with a coherent vision for governing the country”. That is YOUR job Mister politicians. We will complain until you get things on course or we will encourage the people to vote you out.

    July 1, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. Peggy - TX

    The tea partiers are like making deities out of our founding Fathers these days with out really having even a basic understanding of the philosophies of the diverse views of the founding Fathers.

    They are a joke that just never gets tired. First they are funded by the insurance industry and given free publicity, celebrity access and organizational help from Fox and Republicans.

    Then they tries to unite, by first charging hundred of $ to attend the so called conventions so they can keep out the riff-raft and have only those with lots of spare time and $ to set policy that is arguably good for the wealthy and defiantly bad for the average income earner.

    They may be able to articulate a one or two legitimate political issues, but nevertheless, they embraces the racist, the nuts, the haters and have created a monster that is now devouring the last weakened leaders the once formidable Republican Party and crushing all efforts to evolve the Party to effectively deal with current national problems.

    As a life long loyal Dem .. gotta love em ..

    July 1, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. BBopper

    Do IT! Do IT! Do IT! right wing ditto heads. Vote out the last sembelence of Republican moderation(not much of one at that). Once the country gets a load of why you have to offer the Progressives will be IN for the next 65 years! Just like the last time when you right wing nuts stalled the recovery in 1938. Too bad for the President but if it shows "conservative" policy for what it is it will be worth five years of upheaval.

    July 1, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Fair_is-Fair

    Lindsay Graham is what I would call a respectable Republican. He's thoughtful, considerate, has a vision, has ideas and is willing to reach out and discuss governing with the other party. I long for the days where Republicans were respectble and not full of hate and bigotry.

    Lindsey Graham is a true Statesman and an Honorable Senator.

    July 1, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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