Lindsey Graham

Poor Lindsey Graham.

South Carolina’s senior senator went on “Fox and Friends” last week to pay tribute to his mentor and friend, Sen. John McCain. But he ended up using the appearance to make some very un-mavericky statements.

And kiss up to his golfing buddy.

“I’ve seen no evidence of collusion after two years,” Graham proclaimed.

This was just before he went on to repeat malicious charges of corruption in our nation’s judicial system. Because everyone knows the Justice Department has always been in the tank for liberals.

Why else would they announce they were going to reopen an investigation involving Hillary Clinton days before the 2016 election?

Some pundits have suggested Graham has sold his soul to ingratiate himself to this president (which has never, ever backfired). The senator only fueled such speculation when he made some offhand remark about trying to stay relevant.

But this isn’t about Trump. It’s about South Carolina and Graham shoring up the base for his 2020 re-election.

And that simply isn’t going to work out.

He could go on the Sean Hannity sycophant hour and burn his Nikes while chanting “lock her up,” but South Carolina’s right wing will never embrace Sen. Grahamnesty.

An irrevocable split

Two years ago, Graham called Trump a kook and declared him unfit for office.

Last year, he swore there would be “holy hell” to pay if the president tried to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But never mind all that. Now, Graham says we need an attorney general that “can work with the president" and "this relationship is beyond repair.”

Of course, that’s obviously all Sessions’ fault — and has nothing to do with the myriad legal troubles of various Trump associates.

Next thing you know, Graham will be Tweeting about witch hunts and misspelling two-syllable words. For all the good it will do him.

The far right fell in love with Graham for his role in President Clinton’s impeachment in the late 1990s but dropped him like a bag of snakes a decade later when he tried to broker a compromise on immigration reform. He’s never gotten those folks back.

And he never will.

In 2014, the tea party made it their mission to defeat Graham but they couldn’t coalesce behind one candidate. A stampede of opponents split the GOP primary vote and the senator sailed into a third term.

Politics have changed since then. The tea party is largely gone, replaced by a cult of personality that worships Trump. And make no mistake, the president’s popularity is firmly grounded in his hard-line, and unsubtle, statements about illegal immigration and such.

That’s the dominant issue on the right, and those people are never going to vote for Graham.

He's one non-drooling primary opponent away from ending up like Mark Sanford.

Make Lindsey Great Again

Graham should realize the folly of all this.

In South Carolina, social media was overwhelmed this past weekend by nutty posts and memes aimed at his best pal. During McCain’s funeral, Trumpworld was afire with nasty, disrespectful comments about the senator divorcing his first wife — a staggering show of hypocrisy given Dear Leader’s sordid past and multiple failed marriages.

But it’s just further proof that some people have double standards ... and very selective memories. They aren’t going to remember Graham’s newfound religion.

If they do, they’ll just write it off as the senator angling to become the new attorney general — which is popular parlor talk these days, true or not.

Graham should realize that he's forever marked as the man who suggested — gasp — compromise with Democrats. On immigration. And he hung out with McCain.

He isn’t going to overcome that with some of these people, even if he gets a 2020 campaign appearance by the president out of the deal.

Graham is a smart guy, which means he should realize it's impossible to reason with an upside-down constituency that loves a draft dodger and hates a war hero. It’s lunacy.

So the senator should stick to his guns, and his maverick mantle, before he loses the people who actually do vote for him.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.