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With Lindsey Graham's Exit, a Dismal Republican Race Is Diminished Further Still

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Reprinted from The Nation

The candidate who called out Trump's bigotry is now out of the running.

Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham
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Americans who disagree with Lindsey Graham on virtually every issue can, and should, still recognize that the South Carolina senator's decision to suspend his 2016 Republican presidential run is a loss for his party and the broader debate.

Graham campaigned as a social and economic conservative, and as an overly ardent advocate for military interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. It was easy to disagree with his responses to a wide range of consequential concerns. Yet Graham would not join Trump in attacking Islam. And he would not let other Republicans off the hook when they failed to call Trump out. Ripping Texas Senator Ted Cruz for his lax reaction to the billionaire's proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States, the South Carolina senator said, "This is not a policy debate, Ted. This is about you and us and our character as a party. Up your game. Condemn it, because it needs to be condemned."

In announcing his exit from active campaigning Monday, Graham said, "I believe we have run a campaign you can be proud of."

It was a sense of duty that distinguished the South Carolinian from his fellow Republicans.

Other candidates played games, offering tepid rebukes to anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim rhetoric, or degenerating into their own variations on Trump talk -- the lamentable Jeb Bush just dubbed the billionaire a "jerk." In contrast, Graham was specific and serious in his criticisms. "Donald Trump has done the absolutely worst possible thing you can do as an American political leader, and that's declare war on the faith itself," he said last week in a CNBC interview.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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