THE GOOD THING about Brad Hutto is that he doesn’t try to convince us that Lindsey Graham is a liberal. Which is to say that, unlike the six opponents Mr. Graham easily swept aside in the Republican primary, and unlike the reality-show self-promoter who is self-financing a quixotic independent campaign against him, Mr. Hutto is not unhinged from reality.
To the contrary, Mr. Hutto has had a respectable career in the state Senate, where, despite being part of an ever-dwindling minority party, he has had a significant amount of influence on public policy — sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. But regardless of the result, he is someone who understands, like Mr. Graham, that government is about working with people with different points of view to come to a reasonable consensus. And this is probably the most important understanding that a lawmaker can have.
The bad thing about Mr. Hutto is that he wants to be a state senator. Well, that in itself might not be so bad, if he were content to remain in the state Senate. But he wants to replace Sen. Graham in the U.S. Senate, and his main complaint about the incumbent is that he keeps acting like … a U.S. senator.
It’s a bizarre state we live in, where governors and state legislators can’t seem to talk about anything but federal issues, and candidates for federal office think it’s wrong to talk about federal issues.
Fortunately, Mr. Graham understands that he is in fact a U.S. senator.
Sen. Graham certainly works to help our state where appropriate. But he understands that with a few exceptions — such as supporting our ports and our military bases when he can demonstrate that doing so is in the interest of the entire nation, and not just of our state — his job is to focus on national and international affairs. It is to help write laws concerning the powers and policies of the federal government and, particularly when the president is of the other party, to act as the loyal opposition, pointing out a better direction when he believes the president is wrong.
Mr. Hutto is particularly critical of Mr. Graham’s outspokenness on foreign policy, and he makes the legitimate point that there are 99 other U.S. senators who can speak out on ISIS and Russia and Iran and North Korea and other trouble spots in the world. But the fact is that Mr. Graham made a decision a long time ago to focus on foreign policy, he has developed a high level of expertise on the topic, and he has worked hard to be consistent, which sometimes means supporting the president and sometimes means opposing him.
Indeed, because his views on foreign policy are grounded in a well-considered world view instead of partisanship, he serves as something of a marker, to help people sort out criticism that often seems to have more to do with party than policy. We don’t know that we would have chosen that role for our U.S. senator to play, but it is an extremely important role, it is a role that Sen. Graham plays well, and we haven’t seen a good reason to deprive our nation of that.
Of course, that’s not the only reason to support Sen. Graham. It’s not even the most important reason.
The most important reason to support Sen. Graham is that he is among the dwindling handful of federal politicians who understand that we must preserve the sensible center.
He is among the dwindling number of federal politicians who have rejected the suicidal notion that it’s better to be “right” than to accomplish anything.
He is among the dwindling number of federal politicians who are willing to work with those who disagree with them, even if — heaven forbid — they are from a different political party.
Our nation cannot survive if our elected officials abandon pragmatism for ideological purity, if they lose the ability to solve the problems that face our nation, or to agree on what those problems even are.
We suspect that Mr. Hutto would fight against the destructive forces that are leading us in that direction. But Mr. Graham already does that. We should allow him to continue.