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For Progressives, the Choice Is Clear: Lindsey Graham. Wait, what?!

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/11/2015 Brian Boyko
LINDSEY GRAHAM © CNBC via Getty Images LINDSEY GRAHAM

I'm intrigued by Lindsey Graham's campaign for president. On almost any issue you could think of, I think Lindsey Graham supports the wrong position, voted the wrong way, wants to do the wrong thing, or is just plain wrong.

Let's just take gay rights -- Graham compared same-sex marriage to polygamy, voted against the employment non-discrimination act, and voted against allowing same-sex couples to adopt in D.C. Or foreign policy: He wants to start a land war in Syria.

I don't agree with the man's judgment or with his values.

However, in a way, I have to give Graham credit. He may hate gay people, but he's accepted the Supreme Court ruling to allow gay marriage is the law of the land. And American involvement in the Syrian conflict may be (is) the wrong answer, but interestingly, Graham is sticking to that position despite Republican primary voters being overwhelmingly opposed to it. In other words, Graham's decision to invade Syria is a position that he believes to be necessary for the best interests of the people of the country, despite it's unpopularity with those very same people.

It may seem like cognitive dissonance, but I like Graham. Graham respects the separation of powers and has logical, internally consistent (wrong) decisions that he sticks to out of principle. It leads me to believe that despite his skewed values and incorrect judgement, Graham is really running for President because he actually wants to make this country better for Americans. He's wrong about what would make this country "better", of course, but at least his motives are in the right place. I can't say that about many candidates this election cycle.

What's interesting to me is that for all the issues Graham is wrong on, he's right on the one issue that progressives need before they can gain ground on any other issue. Graham is a proponent of reforming the way that elections are funded, so that Congress is no longer dependent on a small fraction of special interests and crony capitalists to get elected. And he's got the legislative history to back his views up, too.

Let's face it -- progressives won't be able to score any legislative victory so long as Congress - both Republicans and Democrats -- require spending 30-80% of their time in office raising money from the wealthy elite. Progressive values are the values of the vox populi, but so long as gerrymandering makes voters irrelevant, and campaign donations make candidates beholden, the people have no voice, no machinery of change, no way, in other words, to win victory one. So if there's any litmus test for progressive candidates this election cycle, it has to be that a candidate supports changing the way elections are funded -- and has to be credible in doing so.

In a very real sense, Lindsey Graham is credible on this issue in a way that the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, just isn't. When Bernie Sanders started gaining ground, and Lawrence Lessig entered the race, she started talking about "a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United" -- too little, way too late -- but I don't believe her even on that small lip service.

Not only does she have well documented ties to Wall Street, her shady-seeming dealings with Putin's Rosatom while she was Secretary of State seems like she literally sold us out to the Russians for cash. Plus, the fact that if there's one thing that Hillary Clinton has been consistent on, it's that she consistantly flip-flops on big issues when big-money gets involved, like when she opposed the bankruptcy "reform" bill as First Lady, but voted for it as Senator in 2005.

Now, it's unlikely Graham will win the nomination. Like the socially-moderate George Pataki and Carly Fiorina, Graham isn't literally crazy enough to become the nominee in a Republican party where the front runners are Trump and Carson.

But (and I know this will rankle some feathers), if he were to somehow become the Republican nominee, and Clinton the Democratic nominee, I actually think progressives would be better off voting for Graham -- bad ideas and all -- than Clinton.

I'd say the same thing for candidates down the tickets too -- if the Republican candidate in your district supports reforming the way that elections are funded, and the Democratic candidate doesn't, hold your nose and vote for the reformer. It'll sting in the short term, but we absolutely need reform before any progressive change -- or any change, for that matter -- is possible in our broken system in Washington.

Of course, if neither candidate supports reform, this would be a good time to vote third-party. Sure, third-party votes don't matter, but truth is, until we fix this broken system of corruption, voting for anybody doesn't really matter either.

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