Coincidentally on the same day that President Trump fired yet another administration member (i.e., the short-lived reign of Anthony Scaramucci), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) published a Politico op-ed about his complete mortification at how his party not only embraced Donald Trump as a candidate but continues to overlook his administration’s shortcomings.
Within the piece, Flake doesn’t hold back at all. He describes Trump’s tweets as “all noise and no signal” and slams Republicans for not holding him accountable for his “volatile unpredictability.” Further, Flake chides his party for not recognizing that Trump’s campaign was “far from conservative” and only lending credence to “the importance of conflict in reality television” and Trump’s resulting inability to “de-escalate” conflict at any point. Naturally, here comes obligatory talk of a Faustian bargain:
“If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals — even as we put at risk our institutions and our values — then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?”
Flake then suggests a few directions for his party. He believes that the GOP shouldn’t allow Trump to hinder their party’s ability to expand its reach, and he says that the party should take a “long view” approach to opposing Trump’s trade protectionism rather than a “populist” one, plus he stresses that Trump shouldn’t be allowed to dispense with institutions like the Senate filibuster that have stood the test of time.
Yet ultimately, some have criticized Flake’s piece, including Business Insider’s Josh Barro, who believes that Flake is all talk and no action when it comes to resisting Trump, as evidenced by his votes in the Senate:
Flake writes that Republicans need to resist Trump’s trade protectionism. But Flake voted to confirm Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s nominee to be the United States Trade Representative. Republican Sens. John McCain and Ben Sasse voted against Lighthizer and wrote a letter explaining that his insufficient support for NAFTA was the reason. Why didn’t Flake join them?
Flake also voted to confirm Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary, even though Ross has advocated for greater trade restrictions, especially with China.
There are other examples as well, including Flake’s position on the Foreign Relations Committee, where he hasn’t advocated for Trump to quit supporting autocrat foreign leaders. All of this arrives in stark opposition to senators such as Lisa Murkowski and others who have stood up against Trump policies even under threat from other party members and the Trump administration itself. So, will Flake answer to this criticism and begin taking Congressional action, or will the op-ed be the end of his contrary actions?