Addison Graham: It didn’t begin with Trump, and won’t end with him

(Patrick Semansky | AP file photo) In this Feb. 28 photo, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, stands onstage with President Donald Trump during a campaign rally, in North Charleston, S.C. Perhaps the most highly anticipated election contest coming up in South Carolina is Graham’s pursuit of a fourth term in office. A general election matchup with Democrat Jaime Harrison all but certain, Graham has also drawn a handful of Republican challengers, as well as Constitution and Libertarian party opponents.

What happened to my country? What happened to my party? What happened to my church?

George Will is not a happy camper. And rightfully so. Because the party he set up camp with for nearly his entire career as a conservative commentator was taken over by a large portion of his fellow campers. So, Will left camp.

Lindsey Graham played a large role in that takeover. Just weeks ago, Will’s colleague at the Washington Post, David Von Drehle, wrote specifically about Graham’s off and on relationship with Trump describing the senator as “a human windsock, whose loyalties exquisitely reflect the gusts and lulls of power in the GOP.” Graham was once a McCain-like critic of Trump, but after the election that all went out the window, Von Drehle says, when he became “Trump’s golf buddy, footstool, and dutiful apologist.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, however, Graham’s recent support of Trump has waned, mirroring the president’s dropping pole numbers. But as Graham waits to see where the wind will take him next, we must ask ourselves: At what point do we start to see Trump not only as an isolated problem, but rather the product of a much larger problem? It did not start with Trump — although he exploited and fueled it — and it will not end with him either. If Lindsey Graham teaches us anything it is that those who have empowered Trump have been equally destructive as the man himself.

As Will wrote, “The nation’s downward spiral into acrimony and sporadic anarchy has had many causes much larger than the small man who is the great exacerbator of them. Most of the causes predate his presidency, and most will survive its January terminus.”

He went on to call for the removal of Trump’s “congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.” Aka Lindsey Graham.

Will, of course, broke from the Republican Party at the beginning of this administration, and his most recent point cannot be understated: the enablers are as guilty as the man being enabled. And they stretch far beyond his inner circle.

Utah, for instance, has its share of George Wills — people grounded in some form of genuine principle. But maybe even more common are the Lindsey Grahams — those willing to sacrifice any sort of moral compass, standard of truth, or even religious convictions as long as their political ideology stays intact. Trump did not change their view of the world, he just made them think it was OK. Now, their values have proven to be as fixed as a job in the Trump administration, and they hold up their religious beliefs as awkwardly and hypocritically as Trump holding up a Bible.

Meanwhile, the George Wills of the world are left to wonder: “What happened to my country? What happened to my party? What happened to my church?”

As nice as it would be to shove all responsibility onto just one New York playboy, this chaos cannot be blamed only on its poster child. Trump’s enablers have been around long before his infamous escalator descent and will continue to be around long after his final stroll to Marine One.

In considering the causes of our cultural faceplant over the past four years, we need not look as far as the oval office, but rather within our communities, throughout our neighborhoods and down the pew at church. Many not only voted for Trump but praise his egotism as strength, justify his selfishness as patriotism, and dismiss his incompetence as authenticity.

But is it worth sacrificing dignity and decency to stand by such a man? After all, as Will said, “In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices.” For some, that is quite a sum.

Addison Graham

Addison Graham, Kansas City, Mo., is a former student at Jordan High School and is set to attend Brigham Young University in the fall.

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