Two Quick Thoughts About Jeff Flake

Get up to speed:

1). A lot of folks on the Left are not taking Flake’s speech seriously because he still votes most of the time with Donald Trump.  This is a fair observation, but I think it misses the point and lacks nuance.  Flake never said he was leaving the Republican Party or ceasing to vote conservative.  His primary criticism of Trump is grounded in the way the POTUS debases the office, tarnishes the reputation of the United States around the world, enables the alt-Right, etc….  I think you can say the same thing about Bob Corker and John McCain.  I understand the intellectual purity of those on the Left.  Flake is not a progressive and probably never will be a progressive.  But by attacking Flake for voting with conservatives, those on the Left fail to recognize gravity of this particular moment.  Their criticism of Flake’s voting record would be the same no matter who was in the White House.  I don’t understand why those on the Left can’t bring themselves to be happy about the potential political implications of Flake’s speech.  In other words, if those on the Left want Trump out of office, isn’t what Flake did a step in the right direction?

I like Philip Bump’s piece on this issue at The Washington Post and Kevin Drum’s take at Mother Jones.  Jana Riess, a Mormon who votes Democrat, wants to buy Flake a cup of coffee.

2). Why aren’t more moderate Republicans concerned that their party will be held hostage by the extremists when Flake, Corker, McCain, and others leave?  Shouldn’t they stay in the Senate and fight?  Ana Navarro actually made this argument yesterday on CNN.

OK–have at it.

3 thoughts on “Two Quick Thoughts About Jeff Flake

  1. He’s also recently said he doesn’t feel either impeachment of a 25th amendment invocation would be appropriate. I’m glad he made the speech he did, but I respect actions more than words. At this point it just sounds like he’s tired of the conflict but doesn’t want to actually change anything there, so he’s taking his ball and leaving.

    It’s nothing to do with ideological purity, its about aligning your words and your actions as much as you can.


  2. I am one of the left-leaning people who has criticized Flake for his record of voting with Trump. There is indeed much to be admired in Flake’s speech, and it was a needed reminder of how a society should behave and a warning of what may happen if the norms of our institutions are abandoned. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to criticize Flake’s voting record, not because he votes for conservative principles, but because many of his votes contribute to the problems he is decrying.

    For example, Flake voted to confirm every one of Trump’s cabinet appointees, despite a widely acknowledged lack of qualifications or experience (e.g. Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, etc.). Flake also voted to remove the 60-vote cloture requirement for Supreme Court justices so that Gorsuch could be appointed. This was by no means the first time Senate processes have been dismantled for political gain (Democrats have their fair share of blame as well), but it was a particularly significant one.

    Flake also voted for the Senate health-care bill and skinny repeal, both of which were pushed through shockingly recklessly, without any review or debate. Everyone admitted that the health-care bills were being pushed not because they were good policy, but because “if we don’t pass this, we’ll suffer politically with our base.” This is a textbook example of defying institutional norrms and process for partisan reasons, yet Flake was willingly complicit.

    So even though I disagree with Flakes conservative policy positions, I am not criticizing him for those votes. I am criticizing him because, when the opportunities arose to use his votes to oppose to Trump’s recklessness, he failed to step up.


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