Supreme Court Kavanaugh

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Lindsey Graham finally found the recipe to win back those right-wing voters who’ve been trying to dump him for a decade: Venomous, bile-spewing hate.

Last week, South Carolina’s senior senator unleashed an angry, overwrought tirade at a Judiciary Committee hearing where a woman who says she was sexually assaulted as a teenager by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh delivered her testimony.

Echoing the judge’s own hysterical, partisan rant, Graham called the hearing an “unethical sham” to keep a Supreme Court seat vacant — conveniently forgetting the GOP’s own insidious refusal to even hold hearings for President Barack Obama nominee Merrick Garland. For the better part of a year.

He all but suggested Christine Blasey Ford is a liar, a Democratic mole meant to undermine a legitimate candidate for the nation’s highest court. And the people who have disdainfully called him Sen. Grahamnesty for years suddenly loved him. On social media, they cheered him on, said that now they would vote for his re-election, that he had redeemed himself.

Funny, the senator couldn’t win these folks back by abandoning his maverick ways, voting consistently conservative or even regularly golfing with President Trump, but now he’s a hero.

All it took was a semi-convincing display of the same hateful hyper-partisan hypocrisy his critics have employed for years.

Selective amnesia

It was hilarious to hear Graham claim Democrats are never accused of sexual misconduct — a favorite trope of these professional victims.

Remember, Sen. Al Franken was recently fragged by his own troops simply for distasteful photos.

And Graham has apparently forgotten his role in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton 20 years ago. An investigation for which Kavanaugh, incidentally, wrote a series of prurient, pornographic questions to ask witnesses, with little regard for their families — or any standard of public decency.

But Graham knows such bloviating is music to the average troll’s ears.

Of course the Democrats are playing politics. Republicans do it, too, and lately have stooped far lower. The senator is not a dumb man. He knows if this was merely a deceitful Democratic hit job, they could have directed it at Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch.

But Graham realizes common sense isn’t big with this audience.

The same people who now dismiss the testimony of a credible witness as proof of nothing spent years shoveling malarkey about Obama’s birthplace and faith without a scintilla of evidence — and mountains of proof to the contrary.

In fact, the right had to drop family values as a political prerequisite because they couldn’t match President Obama’s.

Instead, they latch on to a serial adulterer who can’t even spell special counsel simply because he makes ugly faces and spits dog-whistle language about anyone who isn’t white and male. It’s hate as a brand.

Graham, who faces re-election in two years, has finally learned that such hate sells, and the only way to keep his job is to play to the basest part of the base.

Seems he’s gotten more than pointers on his short game from Trump. And, luckily for him, Graham makes a mean ugly face.

No going back

Graham’s outburst came at a crucial moment last week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had just heard compelling, credible testimony from a woman that put them in a tough spot. Even Fox News was forecasting doom for the Republicans.

Perhaps that’s why Kavanaugh abandoned his prepared remarks and pitched a fit, and Graham took the focus away from that shameful, tearful display by throwing his own.

And not-so-subtly, yet successfully, threatening Sen. Jeff Flake.

Within hours of Graham’s performance, which was credited with saving the day for Kavanaugh, political scientists were predicting the senator may have successfully scared off any primary challengers for 2020. You know, in case Trump doesn’t make him attorney general.

That is astute analysis. It’s going to be a lot harder for other candidates to get to the right of Graham in a primary now. Even right-wing comfort food-peddling Breitbart was polishing Graham’s halo by Friday.

But Graham can’t relax now. There were an equal number of moderate voters on social media completely turned off by his tirade, women and men who swore they’d never vote for him again.

Those are the people who’ve saved him in his past two re-election bids. And they’re gone now.

So Graham had better hope he can keep the fires of hate stoked for another couple of years. After this, there’s no going back to being a maverick or promoting sorely needed bipartisanship.

John McCain would be ashamed.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.