Yesterday the political world was rocked by news of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announcing he wouldn’t seek reelection. Our own Susan Kuebler did a wonderful job covering that, as seen here. However, I believe Flake’s decision should lead to a larger discussion on what’s happening to Republican lawmakers and the party at large.
First off, let me say that Jeff Flake is a conservative’s conservative, as he has 97% conservative rating from Votesmart.org. He tends to vote down party lines, and yet he was unlikely to win reelection. Why is that? Because he’s been one of few Republican lawmakers to commit the cardinal sin of defying Trump openly. And sadly, that is where the party currently stands; where a New York liberal for 60+ years has become the conscience and the standard bearer of what the Republican Party represents.
The country, as a whole, and the conservative movement, in part, would have been in a far better place had he never been elected last fall. He, as well as the entertainment wing (looking at you Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, etc) have successfully sown so much division and destruction in the party; that they are forcing out lifelong-Republicans who don’t recognize their party anymore. One such person being pushed out is columnist, Charlie Sykes, who wrote an amazing article for NBC yesterday. The takeaway line from the piece says:
If the conservative movement wishes to be defined by the nativist, authoritarian, post-truth culture of Trump-Bannon-Drudge-Hannity-Palin, then I’m out.
I know that I, and a lot of other good and solid Republican voters feel the same way. We were there for the party, to defend it against attacks of racism during the Obama years. We shouted, for anyone to hear, that we aren’t homophobic or Islamophobic or xenophobic. That the party wasn’t sexist or mysogynistic. And how were we repaid? By every single slander we’d heard over the years, being brought to life in the form of Donald Trump. And he wasn’t ridiculed or cast aside, as he should have been. Instead, he was elevated to the bar that conservatism should aspire to.
This piece would be missing something, if I didn’t mention that Steve Bannon is claiming credit for Flake’s refusal to seek reelection. He’s claiming a scalp of the establishment, and joyful as the party sinks further into anarchy.
No doubt there’ll be candidates to fill Flake’s seat next term. However, we’re also likely to see a repeat of the 2010 midterms; where candidates like Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell and Sharon Angle had their moments in the spotlight. Those candidates were rightly thought to be on the fringe and a little looney. Now, they’d fit right in with today’s GOP. It’s just a sign of the times that we live in, where Trumpism and not conservative principles rules the party. Where it’s not about ideas for the country or finding a way to expand the tent that matters. Instead it’s about ideological purity, and poking the eye of the media and the establishment that leads to badges of honor.
It’s a dark and depressing time to follow politics. I just keep coming back to the same conclusion over and over again, that much like the great Rick Wilson’s axiom says “everything Trump touches dies.” Well, his fingerprints are all over the Republican Party and it is on life support.