Sen. Lindsey Graham’s vociferous attacks on Donald Trump in the months and weeks and days leading up to Trump’s November 2016 victory were well covered. Sen. Graham’s subsequent change of heart concerning Trump has also been a depressing reminder that integrity in Washington, D.C. is easily bought. But one big-time donor—and former member of Graham’s presidential campaign finance team—is fed up with spineless Republican operatives.
Richard Wilkerson, former chairman and president of Michelin’s Greenville, South Carolina-based North America operations, is fed up with Sen. Graham. A couple of weeks ago, Wilkerson told local news outlets that he was going to support Graham’s challenger, Jaime Harrison, for South Carolina’s Senate. At the time he said he believed Harrison was the right choice for South Carolina. Wilkerson based this on work the two had done to get stronger environmental regulations implemented in the state. On Monday, however, Wilkerson elaborated on his change of allegiance, penning a scathing op-ed in the Greenville News that really laid bare how low his opinion of Sen. Graham has fallen.
Wilkerson explained that while he does not normally make a habit of discussing his political opinions publicly, the reaction to the news that he was supporting Harrison over Graham made him feel he needed to explain. Citing the various reactions to his support of Harrison—which ranged from positive to classic conservative misdirection attempts at boycotting Michelin tires—he said, “I suppose this person did not know that I retired eight years ago, but seems to want to punish the outstanding working people at the company I love.” Wilkerson writes that his decision was a heartfelt one and something he had been dealing with since Trump took office.
Specifically, Wilkerson began to wonder about Sen. Graham in relation to Donald Trump’s continuous attacks on then Sen. John McCain: “What is the character of a man who will not defend his best friend? If he won’t defend John McCain, why would I expect him to defend any of us in South Carolina?” Wilkerson highlighted Sen. Graham’s retreat into divisive politics, his support of the tax scam for the richest among us, and his most recent attacks on public safety: viciously fighting against a federal extension that would expand unemployment benefits to the growing tens of millions of Americans out of work due to the Republican mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilkerson writes that he ended his support of Graham a couple of years ago, and wrote to the Senator telling him that “I no longer recognized him as the man I once supported.”
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Sen. Graham has been facing this music for a couple of years now as time after time, he has failed every test of integrity and character that has come his way during this administration. Sen. Graham’s about face from the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton to the recent impeachment of Donald Trump was a never-ending stream of video clips exhibiting how flimsy Graham’s political “ideals” really are. His opponent, Harrison, has taken advantage of this hypocrisy in his campaign for Graham’s seat.
The political field is filled with all kinds of hypocrites. The pressure and speed with which someone will step all over their principles for power is a frequent topic of discussion on both sides of the political spectrum. In recent years, with the rise of Donald Trump to the top of the Grand Old Party, the degree to which Republicans have publicly compromised their previous positions and opinions has been staggering. While not surprising to those of us paying attention, it has been somewhat shocking to people who may not have realized how desperate for power so many people really are.