Too much is being asked of Senator Jeff Flake, and too little.
Appearing on CNN's New Day on Wednesday, Never Trumper Ana Navarro praised the Arizona Republican's speech but lamented that he chose to resign, enabling the GOP to be ever-more dominated by pols following the example of the apparently rude and crude, wacky and bigoted Donald Trump. A Republican, she was unknowingly echoing the sentiment of Ezra Klein, who wrote
Flake’s decision to retire so he can speak his mind is certainly preferable to choosing to seek reelection while remaining silent. But these are extraordinary times, and they demand more than retirement. Perhaps Flake would have lost reelection if he ran in a Republican primary on the principles and moral behavior he believes in. Perhaps he would have lost if he had mounted an independent candidacy on the principles and moral behavior he believes in. But maybe he would have won, and if he did win, he would have emboldened others in his party, and outside his party, to follow his example.
It is not, though, in a Senator's job description or specification to sacrifice himself for the benefit of either center-left journalists or GOP strategists who- until Donald Trump came along- were fine with their party appealing to bigotry, fear, and plutocrats savaging the poor and middle class.
And sacrifice himself he would have, for Flake would very likely have lost the 2018 Repub presidential primary to a candidate infatuated with Donald Trump. He could have beaten that candidate (probably Kelli Ward) only if the President's popularity had plummeted, in which case the GOP nomination would not have been worth a bucket of warm spit.
Nonetheless, there is something Jeff Flake can do in his remaining 14-15 months short of, but more important than, hanging in there and running again.
He can defy President Trump. Other Republicans, reportedly exorcised by the President's rants and raves, can defy him, rather than merely offering applause to criticism of him. That is not currently happening as
Senate Republicans on Tuesday night leaned on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence to kill a landmark financial regulation that restricts banks and credit card companies from imposing mandatory arbitration on their customers as a means to resolve disputes.
The vote is a blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its controversial director, Richard Cordray, who some Republican lawmakers have urged President Donald Trump to fire because of his aggressive regulation.
Surely Jeff Flake would choose to counter "the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top" by joining all 48 Democrats in voting against rescinding this financial regulation. "Surely" came up short, however, as
The lawmakers narrowly passed a resolution to scrap the so-called arbitration rule after months of uncertainty about whether enough GOP senators would support the effort, which was opposed by consumer and veterans groups. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) broke with their party to vote against the repeal.
Jeff Flake shouldn't be condemned for recognizing "sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office" and for choosing to leave the Senate so as not "to compromise far too many principles." More is at stake than a Senate seat, held by a very conservative Republican who would have been challenged by a very conservative Republican.
The Arizona senator capitulates to Donald Trump not by retirement but only if he emboldens and reinforces the "reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior" of Trumpism. If he wishes to thwart "the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and instituions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency," he can vote against the agenda of the individual he accurately recognizes as a national and international menace. The early returns are not promising.