What Ever Happened to the Maverick of South Carolina?


Not too long ago, The New York Times labeled Lindsay Graham "this year's maverick." Thanks to his occasional willingness to work with Democrats on legislation -- including major items like climate change and immigration -- the senior senator from South Carolina had earned something of a reputation for independence, replacing his friend John McCain as the go-to Republican on important legislation.

Of course, we should be careful not to confuse independence with moderation. Yes, Graham has been willing to work with Democrats, but he's consistently brought a conservative approach to the issues. And when working on his own, he doesn't hesitate to champion conservative causes. For instance, Graham isn't too fond of children born to illegal immigrants in the United States -- "anchor babies," as the right-wing describes them. Indeed, Graham is so incensed by this that he wants to amend the Constitution to end it:

“I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here,” Graham said during an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake, that we should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen.” […]

“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It's called "drop and leave." To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child's automatically an American citizen. That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

It's genuinely difficult to overstate the radicalism necessary to seek a transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed to ensure that slavery could never again happen in the United States and is now integral to keeping the United States free of a permanent underclass of immigrant workers. At its core, birthright citizenship gives immigrants a reason to stay and provide lasting contributions to the United States.

In assaulting birthright citizenship, Graham is attacking an incredibly important part of the American social contract. If the media has any sense, this should kill the narrative that Lindsey Graham is a maverick or a reasonable Republican.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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