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October 25, 2017

Flake’s Appeal to Conscience

There is one reason the senator is quitting: He won’t win. And he gets Leftmedia accolades for opposing Trump.

Donald Trump definitely puts conservatives in perplexing positions. On the one hand, it can be maddening as he pops off with juvenile insults (even attacking his own party), makes definitive statements that are true in general but faulty on specifics, and just plain lacks the decorum and inspirational quality of communication that was Ronald Reagan’s trademark. On the other hand, many conservatives cheer his combativeness as he dresses down some of these forked-tongued, duplicitous Republicans who say all the right things in the campaign commercials and then stab us in the back in the critical moment.

That’s the background for Sen. Jeff Flake’s ostentatious Senate floor announcement that he will not seek re-election, and his accompanying Washington Post op-ed claiming the moral high ground. The Arizona Republican denounced “the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top.” He explained, “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 institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”

Running again, Flake said, “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.”

It’s the proverbial problem of having drunk from the Potomac. It’s not that Flake’s concerns are wrong or entirely disingenuous. We’re also plenty tired of Trump’s sophomoric behavior. But Americans sent Trump to Washington to upend a system that was dreadfully broken, not join in the chorus of some idealistic Kumbaya sing-along as Flake seems to imagine things used to be.

There are two key points to realize: First, Flake obviously wanted the Leftmedia accolades that will come from being the “adult in the room” on the pages of The Washington Post — an increasingly shrill leftist rag that will happily feature anything and everything anti-Trump just to get click-throughs. That’s why Flake didn’t choose a conservative outlet like National Review to express his views.

And oh, by the way, he’s also got a book to promote, if you hadn’t heard…

Indeed, all you really need to know about Flake’s declaration comes from the Post’s own “202” daily publication: “Both these guys [Flake and Bob Corker] will have as big a megaphone as they want for as long as they want it. They will be the most sought-after guests on the Sunday shows and in primetime cable for the next year.”

Second, Flake isn’t running in 2018 because he’d lose, not because of some prick of conscience, whether real or convenient. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, himself at the center of a couple of sessions boxing with Trump, is in the same boat. Some commentators are even framing this as a victory for Trump — getting Senate moderates out and making room for conservatives.

Erick Erickson hints at this, writing, “Jeff Flake had a 100% lifetime Club for Growth record in the United States House of Representatives. He was a conservative’s conservative and stood up to the House GOP leadership. He used that reputation to catapult himself into the Senate with the backing of most every major conservative group. He towed a tough line on the budget, Obamacare, immigration, etc. Then he got to the Senate and promptly caved on it all.”

In the end, Flake has only himself and his own party to blame for Trump’s rise.

> Update: What did we say about Leftmedia accolades?

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