Personal Liberty Poll
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to seek re-election, telling supporters that there “may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”
The Arizona lawmaker’s announcement comes on the heels of months of criticism of the Trump administration. And though his decision not to run for re-election surprised many in Washington Tuesday, Flake’s recent attacks on the president had already lead to plenty of questions about how the lawmaker would perform against a more Trump-friendly Republican challenger in the 2018 midterms. Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon had Flake in his cross-hairs as part of a broader shakeup within the GOP and had already begun the process of building grassroots support behind former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward.
Flake told the Arizona Republic that he’d decided against seeking re-election because running would require him to “condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
“The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” Flake said. “It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
Speaking from the Senate floor Tuesday, the Arizona Republican lashed out against the Trump administration without ever mentioning the president by name.
Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.
In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.
We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.
None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.
Flake is the second influential Republican to announce in recent weeks that he won’t be returning to Congress after his term is up. Last month, Sen Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), another frequent Trump critic, announced his retirement.
According to NBC, Corker praised his colleague’s decision Tuesday, saying: “He’s kinda quiet, but he stands for all the things that make our nation great and is willing to continue to say that even though we have demagogues and others who end up trying to take us in other directions.”
At least in the near term, Flake’s announcement could cause some trouble for the Trump administration as a growing number of Republicans unconcerned about re-election optics line up to criticize the president’s leadership.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, the administration didn’t seem too concerned.
“Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
She later added of Flake and Corker: “I think the people in Tennessee and Arizona supported this president. I don’t think that the numbers are in the favor of either of those two senators in their states. So this is probably the right decision.”