Like most South Carolina conservatives last Wednesday morning, I shook my head in disgust over Sen. Lindsey Graham’s triumph in the Republican primary. We all knew it was going to happen, but being reminded was no less painful. It seemed as if the Palmetto State was destined to forever endure Graham, a man that Quin Hillyer, editor of The American Spectator calls the “Worst Republican Senator.”

The following Thursday morning, still bummed, I took notice of a headline in The Post & Courier that read “Dems seem to back conservative.” The article focused on the potential challengers to Graham in November in the Democratic primary, of which Bob Conley was victorious. I knew nothing about Conley and assumed he was just another standard liberal Democrat. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Said Conley’s defeated Democratic challenger Michael Cone, “We’ve nominated a Republican in a Democratic primary.” Continued the article, “Last month, Conley explained in an interview that he walked away from the Republican Party years ago out of frustration over trade and immigration policies and the Iraq invasion. ‘That party can go to the devil,’ Conley said.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy sounds like me!”

Democrat Bob Conley stands for ending illegal immigration, protecting American workers, bringing our troops home from Iraq, increasing veterans’ benefits, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, ending Wall Street bailouts, repealing the Patriot Act, cutting spending, and fidelity to the Constitution. Conley, the Democrat, sounds more like Ron Paul, the Republican. As it turns out Conley voted for Paul in February.

When asked about his challenger Conley’s conservatism, Graham said, “From what I can tell, he doesn’t represent moderation. I represent a brand of conservatism that you will feel comfortable with.”

Quite frankly, Sen. Graham, your brand of conservatism sucks. It’s not even conservative. On crucial issues like immigration, Iraq, and spending, Graham stands for broken borders, botched invasions, and bloated budgets. Conley doesn’t.

As a matter of practical politics, Graham will have to blatantly lie heading into November, proclaiming himself the “true conservative” in a race where nothing could be more untrue. Even on social issues, the pro-life, anti-gay marriage Conley measures up fine against the incumbent senator.

But he’s still a Democrat, right? Given the track records of President George W. Bush and GOP senators like John McCain and Graham, the loyalty of conservatives to the Republican Party has produced more heartbreak than results. It might be time for conservatives to quit looking for love in all the wrong places.

For president this year, candidates like Libertarian Bob Barr or the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin offer conservatives a better choice, and I’ve been singing the praises of Virginia Democrat Jim Webb for some time now; Sen. Webb defeated former Republican governor George Allen in their 2006 senatorial race precisely because the Confederate flag wavin’, Second Amendment lovin’ Webb was seen as a “salt of the earth” conservative compared to his opponent.

At the national level, the conventional brand of Republicanism is going nowhere fast. The Republicans who have been the most successful are North Carolinians like U.S. Congressman Walter Jones, who opposes the war in Iraq, and B.J. Lawson, who’s running for Congress as a “Ron Paul Republican” and has already defeated his neoconservative opponent in a primary victory. Writes columnist Richard Spencer, “The GOP should take note that it is only the Ron Paul platform that is launching successful insurgent campaigns across the country.” There are upwards of 40 such candidates running across the nation this election year — Republicans, independents, and, yes, Democrats.

And now we have such an option. That Conley, an unknown Democrat, might not be able to defeat Graham doesn’t change the fact that he should. If conservatism is to ever stand for something more than having a capital “R” in front of a politician’s name, then it’s high time we began thinking outside of the proverbial box that is the Republican Party. Even losing a few elections on principle would teach politicians that they can’t neglect theirs. In Graham’s case, I’m not sure he has any, and if he does, they are the most awful principles imaginable.

I’m done with being disappointed. Come November, I’m going to support the conservative for U.S. Senate. I’m voting Democrat.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.

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