We had hoped that once the nation was past the rancorous Nov. 3 election, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham would revert to the bipartisan leader whose pragmatism was an admirable feature of his three previous terms in the U.S. Senate.

It’s been only two weeks since the election — the sample size admittedly is small — but clearly we are still waiting for the Graham of old to reappear.

After a brief but hopeful nod to bipartisanship in a post-election speech, Mr. Graham has followed the lead of President Donald Trump in questioning the integrity of our election system.

Those are shocking imputations from the nation’s leadership. As we have noted, all candidates have the right to challenge election results through the legal system. But attacks on a pillar of our democracy must be backed up by strong evidence. So far, no evidence of mass voter fraud has emerged.

Witnesses of alleged fraud have recanted or, more often, simply said they feel like something was wrong without offering any proof.

All that has rightly prompted many people to ask: What is going on with Lindsey Graham?

Sen. Graham’s views are a reversal from 2016, when he commended the integrity of the nation’s election system in response to then-candidate Trump’s assertions that the vote was “rigged,” according to The New York Times.

“Like most Americans, I have confidence in our democracy and our election system,” Mr. Graham said on Twitter at the time. “If he loses, it will not be because the system is ‘rigged’ but because he failed as a candidate.”

More troubling are Mr. Graham’s awkward attempts to “probe” alleged election irregularities in states that Mr. Trump narrowly lost to Joe Biden. Most concerning is his conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that state’s top election official, in which Mr. Raffensperger says Sen. Graham appeared to suggest that his fellow Republican find a way to toss out legal ballots. Sen. Graham denies the allegation.

All of this unfortunately gives oxygen to conspiracy theories that damage Americans’ faith in the election system and our democracy.

Some speculate that Mr. Graham’s rabid efforts to question the election might be a bid to position the senator as a pivotal figure in securing President Trump’s cooperation in moving forward with the inevitable transition. If Mr. Graham changes course, it’s hard to imagine another senator assuming his role. In that sense, Sen. Graham might be compared to GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater, whose 1974 visit to Richard Nixon made it clear that Mr. Nixon’s presidency would end soon — either by his resignation or removal from office.

Even if true, South Carolinians deserve better leadership, and Sen. Graham’s track record shows he can provide it.

He needs to grab the oars and help row us toward calmer, saner waters, not further into the dark, choppy seas of conspiracies.

— The Post and Courier, South Carolina

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