A hard base to please

A HARD BASE TO PLEASE…. We talked a bit yesterday about Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) telling right-wing activists at a town-hall meeting this week, “I’m not going to leave the Republican Party. I’m going to grow it. We’re not going to be the party of angry white guys….. [W]e’re going to move this party and this country forward. If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

It was apparently an even livelier event than I’d realized.

The 75-minute forum filled several sections of Furman University’s Timmons Arena and attracted demonstrators, critics with handheld cameras, shouts of “traitor” and “Sotomayor” — and a smattering of supporters. […]

One man told Graham he had “betrayed” conservatism and made a “pact with the devil” by working with Democrats…. A woman who had been carrying a sign that condemned “unconstitutional, anti-Christ, socialist, federal, deficit-spending programs” told Graham “God does not compromise” and that he had violated his oath of office by supporting federal ideas, including health care reform that overstep states’ rights.

Lee Fang added, “At a Graham town hall in Greenville yesterday, activist Harry Kimball of ‘RINO HUNT’ protested by constructing a display that depicted Graham, as well as moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), being flushed down a toilet…. Angry attendees in the crowd interrupted Graham with cries of, ‘You’re a country club Republican,’ ‘Sotomayor!,’ and ‘You lie.’ Outside the event, right-wing activist Julliet Kozak picketed the town hall with a sign decrying all ‘Unconstitutional Anti-Christ Socialist Federal Deficit Spending Programs.'”

Brad Johnson, meanwhile, collected reactions to Graham from prominent far-right blogs, where the South Carolinian has been called a “fake Republican,” “RINO” (Republican in name only), a “traitor,” “disgrace,” “asshat,” “democrat in drag,” and a “wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy.”

It’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge Lindsey Graham’s voting record here. The right is livid about his vote to confirm Sotomayor and his support for reforming U.S. energy policy, among other things. But given the apoplexy, one might think Graham had suddenly moved to the center. He hasn’t.

Consider the always-helpful VoteView analysis, which ranks lawmakers from the most liberal to the most conservative. In the current Congress, #1 is Dick Durbin (furthest to the left), #100 is Tom Coburn (furthest to the right). Graham is tied for #82, meaning only 17 senators are to his right. Graham is not only more conservative than most of the Senate, he’s more conservative than most Republicans. This year, based solely on his voting record, Graham is to the right of notable conservatives like Sam Brownback and Mitch McConnell.

And this year’s performance is not exactly unusual. In the last Congress, he was #85, slightly to the right of Alabama’s Jeff Sessions.

If Lindsey Graham is the right’s idea of a RINO, the base is looking to create a very small, very unsuccessful political party.

* Update: I rewrote the paragaph on the VoteView scores, because it was confusing. This fleshed-out version should hopefully be clearer.