U.S. senators don't get to pick judges.

Voters do get to pick elected officials.

That makes you, if you're registered to vote and bother to show up today, a judge, a jury and an executioner of sorts in South Carolina's Democratic and Republican primaries.

But before convicting - and evicting - our senior U.S. senator on the charge of betraying conservatism with his votes to confirm liberals Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, ponder his defense case. Graham gave it again during Saturday night's debate with six GOP challengers in Columbia:

"Elections have consequences. Strom Thurmond voted for 23 Supreme Court justices - voted no twice."

And: "Don't tell the people of South Carolina that we're gonna go to Washington, all of us, and we're gonna lose elections, but the Supreme Court won't change. That's not true."

This, however, is true: The only way to get conservative judges is to elect conservative presidents.

Graham displayed admirable political courage as one of the driving forces in the bipartisan "Gang of 14" senators (seven Republicans, seven Democrats) who forged a 2005 compromise that broke a logjam in President George W. Bush's judicial appointments.

Yes, as state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, pointed out during Saturday night's debate: " 'Advise and consent' does not mean 'automatically approve.' "

That constitutional term does mean, though, that those who fairly decry President Barack Obama's executive power grabs on other issues should remember that judicial nominations are one of his office's legal prerogatives.

Sure, the former constitutional law professor has increasingly ignored that founding document by selectively enforcing the unaffordable Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and immigration laws.

Last week, the Obama administration even overrode congressional will - and authority - by announcing a plan to impose deep new cuts on carbon emissions.

But when Democrats stooped to a successful character-assassination campaign against Judge Robert Bork after President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1987, they were acting not just like constitutional slow learners but like sore losers.

They also triggered a divisive, embittering trend reversing a general Senate tradition of giving presidents wide latitude in choosing judges.

Waa, waa, waa

A sore-loser racehorse co-owner is annoying enough.

After his California Chrome failed to win the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont on Saturday, Steve Coburn threw a hissy fit, then reprised his crybaby act with a petulant snit on Sunday.

He apologized Monday. Too bad that was too little, too late.

And too bad too many hardheads in and out of the Senate now routinely "Bork" judicial nominees.

Like it or not, Obama has won the White House twice.

Whether Obama likes it or not, the GOP won the House in 2010, kept it in 2012 and has a good shot at winning the Senate back this year.

Another like it or not:

Graham has won his Senate seat twice. He will win a primary majority today to avoid a runoff. He then will win the general election in November.

Back to Bright: He reeked of his own sore-loser pique Saturday night while whining about Graham spending big money to win the primary.

Heck, Bright should take it as a compliment that Graham felt the need to run this hard.

Bright, fellow challengers and assorted radio hosts and callers also should take a break from the fiction that Graham "voted for Obama-care."

Huh? Along with every other Senate and House Republican, Graham voted against Obamacare's passage.

Yet Bright told the incumbent Saturday night: "Senator Graham, you voted cloture on Ted Cruz when he was trying to keep that budget from coming to the floor that was going to eventually end up with Obamacare being funded."

Reminder: To "keep that budget from coming to the floor," as Texas Sen. Cruz tried to do last September, would have left the GOP again holding the blame bag on a federal shutdown.

OK, so Graham's wrong in his stubborn dismissals of rising alarms about the National Security Agency's electronic snooping on Americans.

He rates praise, though, for repeatedly crossing party lines, starting in Bush the Second's second term, to push for a way-overdue immigration compromise.

Courting a promotion?

Another dim debate pitch from Bright:

"If you want to vote for someone who would vote like Jim DeMint, I'm your guy."

Hey, DeMint was "our guy" until he quit on us in late 2012, with four years left in his second Senate term, to become president of the Heritage Foundation.

So what job might tempt Graham to run out on us, too?

Hmm. He's worked hard to make it easier for presidents to get judicial appointees through the Senate.

And a Republican president just might be looking for a Supreme Court nominee - maybe even a sitting senator who's an Air Force Reserve JAG officer - before Graham's third term ends.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.