Dear Commons Community,
Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who has been tangling with President Donald Trump for most of this year, announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in 2018, declaring on the Senate floor that he “will no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of the president’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior. As reported by the New York Times:
“Mr. Flake made his announcement in an extraordinary 17-minute speech in which he challenged not only the president but also his party’s leadership. He deplored the “casual undermining of our democratic ideals” and “the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency” that he said had become prevalent in American politics in the era of Mr. Trump.
The announcement appeared to signal a moment of decision for the Republican Party. Last week, Senator John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, spoke in Philadelphia, denouncing the “half-baked, spurious nationalism” that he saw overtaking American politics. Former President George W. Bush, in yet another speech, lamented: “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump had renewed his attacks on another critic in the Republican Party, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, saying he “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.” Mr. Corker, appearing more weary than angry, said the president “is debasing our country.”
But Mr. Flake, choosing the Senate floor for his fierce denunciation of the president, appeared to issue a direct challenge to his colleagues and his party.
“It is often said that children are watching,” he said. “Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?”
Without mentioning Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Flake, 54, took direct aim at the president’s policies, notably his isolationist tendencies, but also his behavior and that of his aides. In his time in Washington, Mr. Flake embodied an old-line conservatism. He avidly pitched smaller government, spending cuts and an end to home-district pork-barrel projects, but also supported free trade, engagement with the world and an openness to immigration.”
There are two sides to Flake’s decision. One is his realization that he likely will not win his party’s nomination because of his anti-Trump positions. Two he sees the GOP as having caved into Trump and he does not want to be a part of it. His book, Conscience of a Conservative, published earlier this year, outlined his strong disagreement and distaste for the way Donald Trump has handled the presidency. His last few months in office should be quite interesting as he joins Senator Bob Corker, who also is not seeking re-election, in forming a Republicans Against Trump voice in the U.S. Senate.