October 13th, 2009
01:35 PM ET
13 years ago

Graham: GOP 'not going to be the party of angry white guys'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/12/art.graham.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke at a town hall in South Carolina on Monday."](CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has always enjoyed a little back-and-forth with belligerent audiences.

He was at it again on Monday night as he faced down an angry town hall crowd in Greenville packed with libertarians and Tea Party activists who accused at the Republican senator of ditching conservative principles by working with Democrats on issues like climate change and voting to send Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

But Graham stressed a mantra he's repeated many times since his friend John McCain lost the presidential election last November - that the GOP must reach out to different constituencies, or face extinction.

"I'm not going to leave the Republican Party," Graham said when one questioned asked him why he hasn't yet joined the Democrats. "I'm going to grow it. We're not going to be the party of angry white guys."

His comments were met with a salvo of boos and shouts of "Ron Paul!"

"I love this party," he responded. "I'm not going to be let it be hijacked by Ron Paul."

Graham emphasized his conservative bona fides - particularly his record of opposing abortion rights and support of gun rights - but said GOP needs to build a broader coalition. Otherwise, he warned, those trying to purify the party will turn Congress over "to the most liberal people in the world because somebody disagrees with you."

"I'm going to find people in Maine, Delaware, Illinois and other places that can win," he said. "And I'm going to help them, and we're going to move this party and this country forward. If you don't like it, you can leave."

Filed under: Lindsey Graham • South Carolina
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Dan

    The republican party should remain open to many people and should run in 2010 on "All Americans First!"

    October 13, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. RDS

    A day late and a dollar short!

    October 13, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Ted Tartaglia

    Lindsey has his work cut out for him because today the Repub party is a party of angry old white men with some religious bigots and evangelical right-wing wingnuts thrown in for good measure. When you through in a few Repub reactionaries like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich,Karl Rove, and Michael Steel, it is difficult to understand how Graham can possibly save the Repubs from total self-destruction.

    Good luck, Lindsey!

    October 13, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. RH

    The GOP already IS the party of angry white guys.

    October 13, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    On the other hand, if it becomes the party that turns its back on those "angry white guys," it will continue its downhill slide into irrelevence and obscurity. Grahamnesty, do the republican party a favor and LEAVE IT!!.......and take McCain and Snow with you.

    (I'm proud to say I AM one of those angry white guys......angry from watching my country and my culture being weakened and systematically destroyed by a bunch of greedy, power-hungry elitists and an electorate that is too PROGRAMED by the media and our so-called public education system to realize how they are being manipulated and used.)

    October 13, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. Larry

    Wonder if he'd cleared that message with Rush?

    October 13, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. Sheryl

    I'm confused. Why are libertarians and tea party activists against Sonia Sotomayer? And I didn't know they were against working on climate change issues, also.

    October 13, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. Isneg

    Senator Graham is a very caring human being and his response to those "NO NO NO" people in his party is right on. He is truly an american who cares about the plight of less fortunate people and not just his self-interests. To the Senator, I say, congratulations for standing for your principles for the good of the american people.

    October 13, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. Hal

    he is right. the party should listen to republicans like grahm and powell.
    democracies are not about "purity."

    October 13, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Sharon

    Sorry Charlie. It already is! Except for a few token minorities, what else do you see? The ugliness and racist remarks from the Repubs are not only being watched by the black people, but all people of color. Remember that!

    October 13, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. Angie in PA

    Good luck with that Sen Graham your party is not only old white hair guys your party is the party of NO, Cant do, were not moving forward your party is slowly coming to its death!

    October 13, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Laura in KS

    Good job, Sen. Graham...everybody's always complaining about the lack of bipartisanship, but as soon as someone actually crosses the line to do something good for the country (even if the "other side" suggested it), they're immediately booed and accused of joining the other party. Talk about a double standard...

    October 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Well done.

    I never cared for Mr. Graham but I respect him for standing up to the baggers instead of doing as his compadres have done; which is to bow to them and take gleeful delight in their attacks on the President.

    I see now that these traitors are turning on the GOP, there seems to be some newly found revulsion in the baggers' revolution.

    As far as I'm concerned, the republican party has always been a party of "angry white guys" the difference is that there are far fewer of them in this (thankfully) increasingly diverse nation.

    October 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Chris

    I applaud your efforts Mr. Graham.

    October 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. phoenix86

    Republicans need to get united. The majority of Americans no longer support the democrats since they have seen what the far-left is willing to do to this nation.

    Get united and take back Congress in 2010 and retire Obama in 2012.

    October 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. John

    Wow, is he for real? Just so you know, Sen. Graham, John McCain is NOT conservative, nor is "opposing abortion rights". Being in the GOP is not proof of conservatism, it's just a political party. On a side note, in one breath you say you want to "grow" the party and then tell a large group "If you don't like it, you can leave." Do I really have to tell you why that might be what kills the GOP?

    October 13, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. Mark

    They are already on their way back only after 9 months of Obama.

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    the party of NO..... what a pack of whiny losers

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Jeff in DC

    I'm a Democrat, but I've always liked Lindsey Graham, he's a really good guy. Therefore, I'm not surprised that he's taking a bit of heat from the lunatic fringe that's running the tea party movement. He is definitely conservative on policy, but he's smart enough not to be antagonistic to those who disagree with him, so obviously that's a problem for the crazies that were heckling him.

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. G

    Too Late. FYI....Joe Wilson, Angry old WHite guy.....

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  21. Anthony

    Youre right...

    Its going to evolve into the party of
    spewing their lies,hate, and divisiveness until (they hope) our President (and country) fails, and they can claim Political victory in an attempt to reclaim power.

    So in a sense, he is being honest. And he already knows his attempts at TRYING to be Bi-Partisan drew TeaPArty activists and Libertarians Boos. Just goes to show people are gonna find anything to be angry about.

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. Hopeful Optimist

    Never know exactly what to think of his remarks. But that begs the broader question - if he cannot abide the far right wing and their bigoted philosophies, why doesn't he switch parties as some of his hecklers suggested.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that America is made up of primarily two groups: (1) Those who tolerate and accept legitimate and sincere differences among groups and individuals, yet share enough common ground to pull together as a united people with the same basic hopes and aspirations, and (2) those who look for, emphasize and exploit differences among groups and individuals so as to ostracize and separate. Fortunately, the first group is probably eighty (80) percent of the population; the remainder calls themselves Republicans.

    October 13, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. AMG

    The Republican Party needs more Lindsey Grahams. His editorial with John Kerry in the NY Times shows how constructive members of the Senate can work together. Senators are elected to make things happen, not prevent progress.

    Thank you Senator Graham for playing a leadership role.

    October 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Charlier Brown

    Too late for that

    October 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Jeffer65

    If he really means it, I could start to respect him alittle. I always thought he was McCain's lackey.

    October 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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