July 1st, 2010
12:23 PM ET
8 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. barbara

    It will die out when the black president is out of office. That's what's firing those people up.
    You are so far from the real truth. Try to remember who it was that put Obama over the top. Whites , other minorities and the youth. Had every single black american registered voter in this country voted for Obama it still would not have been enough to elect him. We, in the tea party Movement, have no problem whats so ever with the color of our presidents skin. WE have a real problem with his AGENDA and POLICIES that only seek to bring this nation to its knees. YOU are the one that imagines that the movement is racist because its your way to try to degrade us in the eyes of the nation and the world. Violent? Never. YOU confuse this movement with all left and radical activists. You use the most obscene language in an attempt to show your real anger at a movement that you can not destroy and that the majory of America believes in. It is okay for you to come into the light, we want you here. We will never treat you like you would treat the memebrs of this movement. Come on in we have plenty of room. All you need to have is a true belief in the supreme law of the land (Constitution), small and effective government and lower taxes. That is what we are all about.

    July 1, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  2. Dennis

    Any time your movement is based solely on tearing others down instead of striving to be constructive and lifting others up, it is bound to fail. The American people are looking for leaders to can offer positive hope and change. The constant whining and hate rhetoric is getting old and tiring. It is time for teamwork and constructive ACTION.

    July 1, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. James

    The tea party will die as soon as its leaders are forced to clearly lay out their vision and policies. I read that NYTimes article, and a very telling moment is when Graham met with some teabaggers and asked them "What do you want to do? You take back your country — and do what with it?". They had nothing to say, because they have no vision. Just anger and a college dorm version of libertarianism.

    I think you could destroy the tea party movement by forcing its leaders to answer a few simple questions about their beliefs honestly and openly. Example: "What do you think about Illegal immigration?" A true libertarian would say borders should be open and migration should be relatively easy. A tea party "libertarian" would say we should close the borders and crack down on illegals. "What about the separation of church and state"? A true libertarian would say of course they should be kept separate, the state should not force or support one religion over another because that would interfere with individual choice. A tea party "libertarian" would say this is a Christian nation and god should be in our schools, courts, public toilets etc.

    Soon enough the tea party will be just another political footnote, alongside the "know-nothings" and "Free soils" of history.

    July 1, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. drednm

    tea bags are a shrieking pack of racists....

    July 1, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Like all tea- you can see through this movement and tellit has no real strength.

    July 1, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Nothing is too big to fail

    Not before we make sure you're out of office Lindsay. I guarantee it

    July 1, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. sensible Cape Coral FL

    I would hate to think that ten or fifteen years from now my picture may be in a Social Studies textbook wearing a straw hat with tea bags hanging from it. It would serve me right.

    July 1, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Bob

    I generally don't agree with most of what lindsey has to say, because i think hes wrong alot of the time...With that being said, hes at least a republican that tries to do the best for his country and not his party...Thats what we need on both sides of the aisle so things can get done in a democratic way...
    Well said mr. Graham

    July 1, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. t-doggy

    tea party was never a party. Just angry right of the right white folk who cant handle a strong, smart black man in the WH.

    turn's out only 2% of them know taxes have been lowed by Obama and at a 60 year low, but they still cry about taxes.

    They claim grassroots (lie) when freedoworks was behind it.

    They claimed bipartisan. lie

    They claim their Constitutionalists yet they are trying test cases in courts in a failed effort to recall Constitutional elected Democrats.

    They say" we want our country back" but forget its not theirs, but everyone's.

    Baggers are the sore GOP losers who said nothing when Bush spent more then all Presidents combined took away Constitutional rights and let the country tank.

    Baggers wont survive, as all hate groups die out from internal wars.

    Yes the baggers are a HATE group with the mentality " we must burn the village to save it"

    July 1, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Realist

    I would label the majority of people who have commented as conservative extremists. This country cannot be governed by the types of people you want to elect because governing requires compromise, an act which is unacceptable to the conservative extremist. Many Republicans in office now are on the verge of, if not already, conservative extremists which is the reason they have a significant minority and accomplish very little.

    July 1, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Dennis

    At last...someone with some sense to see things how they are. So far, the only thing the Tea Party has brought about in this upcoming election are idiots that will be easy to beat in the upcoming election. I can't wait.

    July 1, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. The Great One

    Remember when all those classified FBI files of elected officials were unaccounted for during the Clinton Administration? I guess someone on the left is blackmailing Grahamnesty again. You know, he is an older guy who has never been married and looks, acts and talks kind of effeminate. Hey, I'm just axing the question.

    Perhaps he should do what Charlie Crist did recently to dispell the rumors...hold your nose and marry a woman.

    That's right I said it!

    July 1, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. once upon a horse

    problem seems that the Tea Party candidates were fine when they were only among their group.....away from FoxNews and their other supporters they come across as babbling idiots that have no idea what they stand for. People realize that the socialized medicine they don't want also includes Medicare and Veteran medical treatments. Also includes programs like Social Security. Had this "grass roots" movement started back when Bush was in office when all the bleep started to hit the fan it would have had more credibility. But NO they waited for Obama to become president to form and brought along their bigoted buddies that would never had of questioned what Bush was doing. More and more people are starting to see what they are about. Now if the evil left wing media will stop giving them a platform maybe they will go the way of the doo dooh bird.

    July 1, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. David

    Sadly, I think he's right. Not that I don't agree with most of the Tea Party's views, but it is a largely emotional, not philosophical, movement. They just scream for less government and lower taxes, but have no clear understanding of what these thing are or how to achieve them. And they're not even consistent, given their defense of Social Security and Medicare, which I would love to see abolished.

    I support the Tea Party's basic goals, but they need a clear description of what they believe the government should and should not do instead of this emotionalism.

    But then, they're no more passionately irrational than the original Tea Partiers, or most of the early movement for independence in America, and look how that turned out. (I'm glad it did, of course.)

    July 1, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. ruty

    Amen, Lindsey

    July 1, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. A choice come Nov.

    What Sen. Graham is saying is that conservatives need to have more open ideas about dealing with 21st century issues. He is not a Democrat but a open minded conservative. Nothing wrong with that. You will always have your far righties and lefties but everybody is pretty much in center left and right.

    July 1, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. vic

    As a conservative I don’t agree with Tea party because they don’t know what is real conservatism

    We are living in internet world and depend on global economy time for us to adept good things to conservatism

    If Conservative want the power back then they must reject Sarah Palin I never support palin. she is idiot

    Thanks senator

    July 1, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    That the Tea Parties will "die out" is Graham's hope; it's not a "prediction" he has much hope of coming true.

    I refer to the Tea Parties in these fora in the plural because they are, at the moment, scattered all over the ideological lot. That will change. They, like many nascent political parties of the past, will eventually coalesce around what's roughly common to their presently disparate ideologies, at which point they'll likely adopt a more formal name and get on with the process of being a major party.

    (In the sense that the appellation "Tea Party" will likely fade, Graham may be right that the Tea Parties will "die out." But the people of those parties, united if only with their rage at Washington and their disaffection with the "traditional" parties, will go on being a presence in American politics for the foreseeable future.)

    July 1, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. History PhD, Lifelong GOP

    Graham is quite right – the Tea Party movement will die down.

    What has been shown time and time again throughout our history is that when Third Parties arrive, they tend to be a radical offshoot of an established party. What that does is ultimately split the vote of that established party, leaving the opposing party wide open to win, even without a 50% +1 majority. In addition, attempts at smaller governance in our history have only sparked further outrage, violence, and economic chaos.

    Simply put, the Tea Party movement is altogether ignorant and misinformed on their country's social and political history. Their entire existence only seeks to undermine legitimate, truly conservative efforts in government and further strengthen the Democrats' criticisms of the GOP and conservatives in general. Yet that is all the more proof of their ignorance.

    July 1, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. key

    I would imagine that the members of the tea party use the same government services I use. And I believe they should be payed for they just don't agree with who heads the white house

    July 1, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. Willy Brown

    Graham is a closet liberal

    July 1, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. Charlie

    Mankind is not causing climate change
    The federal Government needs to secure our borders

    The Tea Party is alive and growing.

    The Spirit of '76 lives.

    July 1, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. Tim

    That's a funny line, given that neight the Democrats or the Republicans have had a coherent plan to govern the country.

    What a rube.

    July 1, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. godblessusa

    Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey July 1st, 2010 12:30 pm ET

    >> "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today." <<

    "Wrong again Senator." –

    You're wrong, Jeff.

    Amnesty, multiple tax increases, etc., etc. Reagan is the ultimate RINO. Graham is absolutely correct that Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today. Which is precisely why you provided zero reasons as to why Graham is wrong.

    The Reagan-myth would be easily elected. The Reagan-reality wouldn't.

    July 1, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. MP

    >> "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

    Right again Senator.

    July 1, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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