An organization that says it represents “tea party” groups nationwide is attacking Sen. Lindsey Graham for criticizing them in a recent New York Times article.
In a piece profiling him in the Times magazine, Graham complains about the so-called tea party movement, arguing that the movement that’s emerged over the last year or so doesn’t have long to live. “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. It will die out,” Graham is quoted as saying.
The so-called tea party has developed as a loose confederation of groups on the political Right that have grown to oppose President Obama and congressional Democrats. The tea party activists have begun flexing their political muscles in this year’s mid-term elections — defeating even Republican candidates seen as not sufficiently conservative, including Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.
Tea party activists also have fueled the candidacies of such Senate hopefuls as Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Sharron Angle of Nevada.
Although Graham has amassed extensive conservative credentials in his years both in the House, and now the Senate, his attempts at working on a bipartisan basis on such issues as immigration and climate change have alienated those on the Right.
His comments in the New York Times have added fuel to those flames and represents further evidence of an uneasiness with the often-vitriolic tea partiers, even among conservatives.
“Lindsey Graham’s repeated public attacks on the hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians like me who have participated in tea party events displays an arrogance and contempt for the views of his constituents that is beyond the pale,” says Allen Olson, chairman of the Columbia (S.C.) Tea Party. “It is among the reasons three South Carolina GOP committees from Charleston, Greenville and Lexington Counties have censured him in the past two years.”
Olson is quoted in a press release issued by the National Tea Party Federation that calls for a “an immediate and complete apology to the more than 20 million tea party activists across America he insulted last week.”
Frank Santarpia of New York’s Staten Island Tea Party says, “Senator Graham owes me, my group, and the entire Tea Party movement an apology for his short-sighted and uninformed statement that the Tea Party movement has no coherent vision. Since the very first tea parties in South Carolina and across the nation on February 27, 2009, our consistent message has been to support fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutionally limited government.”
In their statement, the tea party activists blast Graham as too moderate, too much a creature of Washington, and denigrate the lawmaker with the RINO (Republican In Name Only) epithet. Despite the criticism as a moderate, Graham was given a 90-percent lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union for his work in Congress through 2009.
North Carolina’s Erika Franzi, founder of the Asheville Tea Party, says, “Lindsey Graham threw his lot in with the mushy-middle RINOs, calculating that fence-riding would give him broad appeal. What he didn’t count on was an electorate with the two things he lacks: convictions and principles.”
Further, the statement implies the tea party group may seek to oust the two-term senator if he seeks re-election in 2014.
“The Tea Party movement has a new vision for Senator Graham, and this is it: Former Senator Lindsey Graham, Private Citizen,” the statement says.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.