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. lisa from tampa

    and your buddy John McCain is what unleashed the hate by selecting half governor Palin. Your party should be ashamed of the inflammatory rhetoric, igornance and hate the Tea Party spews....and they have spun up a cardre of like minded people. Thank goodness, they are the fringe. Your party has been taken over by the fringe.

    July 1, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  2. anthony

    The Tea Party will expire when Republicans regain power. There will no longer be a need for them, and Republicans will stop funding their rallies and trips across America. The Tea Partiers will be happy to return to their real party and stop pretending.

    July 1, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Big Jilm

    I love to watch these "compassionate" conservitards destroy their own party from within. Do what they say exacty how they say it or you're not part of the "in-group" – way to go.

    When will you GOBPers come up with a plan, policy, or idea that isn't just "hate democrats" hmmm?

    July 1, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Lisa, Miami

    Graham suggests the Founding Fathers were not sustainable. Now we can all understand this guy. In South Carolina terms He is actually a left over British sympathizer from 1776. Perhps descended from Tarleton. We shoulda returned those losers to bloody old England

    I truly, truly think you are completely crazy............
    what planet are you from??

    OMG......what do I have to read this days.
    Did you forget your medications today!???

    July 1, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Lewis

    I'm not affiliated with either major party. I'm impressed with Lindsey Graham because he always seems to speak on his analysis of a situation rather than just preaching the party line – even if I disagree with his analysis. In respect to the Tea Party, I agree with him – pure anger is nothing without a leader, a vision, and an actual plan. Just rallying in the streets shouting semi-prejudiced statements – yes, it's a party for the future. And no – Reagan would not get elected today by his own party – even though that same party likes to say Reagan, Reagan, Reagan.

    July 1, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Keith

    The Tea Party really only has two possible destinies. Either dying out or being hijacked. The original Tea Party group that started up during Bush but which had no press was reasonably rational. The first defeat for the Tea Party occurred when they were usurped by FoxNews to sustain Fox's ratings. That directly led to the debilitating association with primarily Glenn Beck, but also Hannity et al.

    Too many people fail to recognize that Glenn Beck is nothing more than a radio shock-jock turned TV shock-jock. He is exactly the same as the likes of Howard Stern but with an act tailored for conservatives. He's all about ratings and therefore will say anything that his demographic wants to hear. The result is that, while he may have some reasonably rational viewers who find him entertaining, he also attracts a huge number of “loonies”. Exactly like Howard Stern.

    When Glenn Beck glued himself to the Tea Party in order to sustain his ratings, the Tea Party became burdened with all of Glenn Beck’s extra baggage. Thus the loud mouth loonies started taking front stage away from the more rational Tea Party members. The problem with the loonies that have infested the Tea Party is that they are always loonies. If the rational people in the Tea Party want to do anything rational, they have to also deal with the irrational loonies that are part of their “movement”.

    To be honest, this is not unlike a smaller problem that environmentalists and other movements face. The majority of environmentalists try to promote their position in a rational manner within the system. However they also get a “black eye” from the environmental extremists who do things like burn down housing tracts that are under construction. While the Tea Party loonies might not burn down houses, their irrational nature not only attracts attention away from the rational Tea Party members but it also disrupts rational efforts within the movement.

    July 1, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Mark

    Ronald Reagen would have been called a RINO by these "conservatives" as well. The Tea Party is a combination of two things.

    The failure of G W Bush and Republicans not being able to deal with that. The Republican brand was tainted by his administration so they simply re-branded themselves.

    The second aspect is Fox News. In 1996 they created an entertainment channel that distorted reality towards conservatism, and spent all their time trying to destroy Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives. Now that entertainment channel is considered reality and is followed religiously by a large segment of American culture. This segment named itself, much as fans of any cultural phenomena would name themselves.

    Lindsey Graham, unfortunately for him, deals in reality and reality has no place any longer moving forward for the GOP. It's a scarey scarey thing that they can run the country into the ground, then spend all their time attacking any attempts to fix the problems they created, and actually start appealing to more and more Americans.

    July 1, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Dale

    What energy? They haven't accomplished much beyond threatening a few voters outside of the polls. (Oh, yeah, they want you to forget that, while still bringing up the lie about Black Pathers supposedly doing the same ... but y'know, they're not racist or anything. No.)

    i do find it odd how those defending the Tea Party are now sounding a bit desperate, while getting extremely upset that anyone would suggest that perhaps they're not the hottest thing in the world anymore.

    July 1, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. DIANA

    I hope those extreme right Republican's go with them. And while they're at it – please take Rush, Palin, and Beck with you.

    Way to go Mr. Graham. I aplaud your courage!

    July 1, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. DFTycoon

    The tea party has no real policies (like the GOP). They will fizzle out when their racist outrage dies down.

    July 1, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. Chas in Iowa

    It'll go the way of the GOP,....a slow and painful death.

    July 1, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Lynn

    Thank you, Senator Graham! I agree with Mitch. The Tea Party is upset because a black man is President. So... Racist!!

    July 1, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |

    Tea Party to Lindsey Grahamnety: You are 'unelectable'.

    July 1, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. ScottinPgh

    If a "coherent vision for governing the country" is the criteria for sustainability, shouldn't both major parties have disappeared by now?

    July 1, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  15. Keith

    BTW Eti, the strength of the Founding Fathers was in their ability to resolve differences between people with vastly different viewpoints. The Tea Party would have simply rejected the views of the majority of the Founding Fathers for not being "pure". In fact, Tea Party members would have been in the mob accusing John Adams of being a traitor for defending the British soldiers.

    July 1, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  16. T

    It's all about color. Yea it will die out when the President is not in power........well Tea Party you have another eight years of the President and his color will not change. We are not going back in histroy for you Tea T..........you are evil............We did not have the TT Party when Bush was in office, now look what pop up. I am not pride of some parts of our Histroy , but I do know 89 % of us are not going back.......we as people has to move forward. We are more open and you just cant pull the wool over our eyes.

    July 1, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Barack.Hussein.Obama-America's-Benevolent-DICTATOR

    Geez... And to think I used to like Lindsay Graham. Now it is clear he's as clueless as the DemocRATS in Congress.

    I have a bet for you Lindsay! Ten bucks says the Tea Party will survive longer than your hold on your Senate seat. You may have just painted a target on yourself.

    July 1, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. John

    In 1982, Ronald Reagan signed into law a bipartisan* bill that gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants.

    Does anybody think he would *not* have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today? What about the Republicans in the House and Senate that also voted for the bill? Not even a Democrat could get away with looking for amnesty these days. And yet, it is the *only* solution.

    Just round up all 12-20 million illegal immigrants and deport them, because they broke the law? Well, that would require massive federal spending and a huge expansion of the federal government, plus loads of money we don't have. How expensive is the forced relocation of 100,000 people? 1 million? And we're talking about 20 million? You need some kind of police or military force to round them all up. You need to house them before relocating them. Hmm, massive government camps capable of securely housing 20 million detainees? Well, at least they'd come in handy when we purge the conservatives from the country. You need to identify their countries of origin. You need to transport back to those countries, and really really hope they don't just ship the illegals back to us.

    And on top of that, our economy will have lost the rent they pay, the work they do, the food they buy, the clothes they buy, the gas they buy, and the sales tax they pay for all that.

    "Deport all the illegals" seems like a great solution on it's face. However, apply even the tiniest shred of critical thinking and the whole thing falls apart. It just plain isn't feasible. So you have to find another solution. The only other solution is amnesty. It's unpleasant but it's true. Reagan knew that.

    *For the younger readers, "bipartisan" was something politicians used to be, when they would put aside political differences and compromise to solve a problem affecting all Americans. These days, Democrats make concessions, Republicans ignore the concessions and refuse a compromise and vote the party line, and then attack the Democrats for being partisan.

    July 1, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. Tired of Spending

    Senator, the Tea Partiers don't want to govern the country they just want those that do govern to respect that 1) they do so at the pleasure of the people and 2) the people don't want their hard earned dollars spent on every program that someone dreams up. Stick to the Constitution and STOP SPENDING MONEY and we'll be much happier.

    July 1, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. LRon

    Watch out, Senator Graham. Thinking rationally is the quickest way to get yourself purified right out of the GOP. They're only interested in keeping those who are ideologically blue-eyed and blonde. If you can't do the Teatard goose-step, you're gone! Get on the train! We'll take you on the Democratic side, though. We still appreciate rationality and civility, and we see the great value in having people around who disagree with us. It couldn't hurt the Democratic party to have an honest conservative who isn't suffering from schitzoid fantasies of death panels, socialist takeovers, global scientific conspiracies, and fear of 15 ft. Mexicans.

    July 1, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. nobody

    [quote]Mitch July 1st, 2010 12:31 pm ET

    It will die out when the black president is out of office[/quote]
    You said a mouthfull there Mitch 🙄

    July 1, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. anthony

    The Tea Partiers know that if Republicans regain power, they need to return to their jobs. They can't afford to travel across America anymore. They know that if Republicans regain power and repeal the health care law, they will need to have real jobs; otherwise, they won't be able to afford health insurance on their own, the way insurance premiums have been going up even before Obama was elected.

    July 1, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. Chris in NE

    Thank you! It looks like someone's finally recognizing an inherent flaw in this group. The Tea Party is interesting, but in all reality, all they do is shout and scream about any difficult but necessary decision made by the president and congress. They're strongly opposed to higher taxes and spending, but are furious with the government over their hands off approach to big oil that led up to the oil. They're demanding that medicare be "left alone" and that something be done immediately to help those impacted by the oil spill (many of who apparently have been dodging taxes for years... not that this doesn't mean they shouldn't get aid, but this irony really epitomizes the US's problem). How do they propose that we increase government regulation and extend aid to the elderly and those effected by the spill without increasing "big" government and taxes? I believe that there should be more regulation of big oil, that we should help the needy and elderly, and because of this, I label myself a progressive democrat. Tea Party members who believe the same are called "hypocrites".

    July 1, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  24. normajean

    The "Tea Partiers" don't KNOW anything about governing the country. All they know about is hanging out in a park carrying nasty signs and blaming the president for everything but the weather.

    July 1, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. Ben in Texas

    Once more with the myth that teabaggers are anything other than the most extreme right wing of the Repugnant Party.

    The reason they have no coherent vision for the future of the U.S. is that they are part of a larger party that has no coherent vision and no ideas, other than to continue keeping corporations on welfare and attacking the middle class working people of this country. That's what's not sustainable. This country will fold over into chaos when the middle class is gone.

    July 1, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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