When Lindsey Graham says you're too soft...

The Hill reported yesterday that Senator Lindsey Graham (RINO-SC) "lashed out at fellow Republicans Tuesday for a 'capitulation ... of dramatic proportions' to Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the lame-duck Congress."

No doubt he's right to excoriate the GOP for letting Harry Reid jam through a treaty in a lame duck session for the first time in US history.  No doubt he's right regarding GOP votes to end cloture on the DREAM Act (even though it eventually failed.) No doubt he's right that "It makes me disappointed that, with a new group of Republicans coming in, we could get a better deal on almost everything."

But the real message here is that Graham is himself running scared -- scared of the Tea Party movement and what it did to Bob Bennet in Utah, to Mike Castle in Delaware, to Trey Grayson in Kentucky, etc.  Graham realizes that if he doesn't become a conservative instead of a RINO and stick with it, much like John McCain's conversion to McCain 2.0 (a conversion which we don't yet know will survive into the next Senate session), he will face a primary challenge.  And it would likely be a much more credible challenger than J.D. Hayworth was to McCain.

And this, my friends, is the real value of the Tea Party.  It doesn't matter if Graham is sincere.  It just matters how he votes.  And as long as he's scared enough of a Tea Party-supported primary challenge to feel that he must fly straight, then the Tea Party is demonstrating its ongoing value.

What remains to be seen -- and what's not out of the question -- is whether there will be a similar, if less dramatic, impact on the behavior of Olympia Snowe.  And more broadly, it will be interesting to watch which Tea Party organizations (as they really are not part of one giant group like the Dems or the GOP) remain effective, or become more or less effective in impacting the votes of members of Congress.

You know something is new in the world when Lindsey Graham is criticizing GOP capitulation.  If there were ever a political canary in the coalmine, we've just witnessed it.

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