Elections, Senate

Right and Left React to Jeff Flake’s Denunciation of Trump

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Daniel Larison in The American Conservative:

“Almost all of Trump’s loudest intraparty critics are incapable or unwilling to ‘come to grips’ with the reasons why they lost their party.”

Mr. Larison addresses Ross Douthat’s column in The New York Times urging Mr. Trump’s critics to stand and fight. The problem with this argument, according to Mr. Larison, is that most of the president’s critics want to stand and fight for “the same bankrupt Bush-era agenda that did so much to bring them to their current position.” Writing for the noninterventionist American Conservative, Mr. Larison condemns a Republican party divided between “hawks and ultra-hawks.” “This is not a party that is interested in rethinking assumptions or learning from catastrophic errors,” he concludes. Read more »


Jonah Goldberg in National Review:

“Flake and Corker — flawed as they may be — have simply been responding to the drama machine in the Oval Office. That is where all the drama is coming from.”

Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host who has largely been supportive of the president, responded to the criticisms from Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake by emphasizing that they would not have gotten re-elected in this political climate. He then calls on everyone to stop the “drama.”

That’s at least how Mr. Goldberg summarizes Mr. Hewitt’s position. Mr. Goldberg takes issue with this argument, writing that “to excoriate Flake and Corker for their drama while remaining silent about Trump’s is the very definition of enabling.”

Mr. Hewitt, in turn, replied to Mr. Goldberg on Twitter, writing that Mr. Flake is fundamentally “out of step” with Arizona politics. But he is confident that there are mainstream conservatives in that state who will run and can win. Read more »


From the Left


Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

John Nichols in The Nation:

“The measure of responsible Republicanism in these times cannot be made with words — not even with words so powerful as those employed by Jeff Flake on Tuesday afternoon. Deeds are required.”

Mr. Nichols has no faith that the other members of the Republican party will heed Mr. Flake’s call to speak out against the president. Moreover, Mr. Nichols believes that Republicans of conscience cannot just articulate their resistance to the president, they must take action. If the president is truly as dangerous as we have been told, “he should be checked and balanced by Congress.” Read more »


Adele M. Stan in The American Prospect:

“In a binary system such as ours, the republic is gravely threatened when the members of one of the two major political parties risk ouster-via-primary for insufficient loyalty to an authoritarian executive.”

While it may be tempting for progressives to view the Republican intraparty fighting “with a sense of amusement, if not outright glee,” Ms. Stan warns that any celebrations from the left are premature. By driving out dissenting Republicans like Mr. Flake, she writes, figures like Mr. Bannon “can fundamentally alter the party’s DNA to favor authoritarian candidates.” Read more »


John Cassidy in The New Yorker:

“But there is also something serious and consequential going on here, something that goes beyond the daily Twitter wars.”

Mr. Cassidy is willing to give Mr. Trump’s critics who use words — rather than actions — a bit more credit than Mr. Nichols is. He contends that the history books will treat figures like Mr. Corker and Mr. Flake kindly, writing, “In politics, words count less than actions. But they matter nonetheless.” Read more »


Finally, From the Center

Laurie Roberts in The Arizona Republic:

“Two people who couldn’t have been happy with Flake’s announcement: Republican Kelli Ward and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.”

How will Mr. Flake’s decision not to seek another term affect the race in Arizona? According to Ms. Roberts, not having Mr. Flake as a primary opponent is bad news for the Bannon-backed candidate, Kelli Ward, whose “entire campaign was ‘I’m not Sanctuary Senator Jeff Flake.’” Now, Ms. Ward will probably be challenged by an establishment Republican with a better shot to win than Mr. Flake did. It is also bad news for the Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, who was hoping to run against Ms. Ward in the general election. The only thing for certain, writes Ms. Roberts, is that Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, will tease that he is considering a run but won’t ultimately pull the trigger. Read more »


Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg:

“In Europe, politicians who feel their party has been hijacked generally go further, sometimes as far as setting up a splinter party.”

News of Mr. Flake’s speech made it into the international news cycle, explains Mr. Bershidsky, where Europeans were left “scratching their heads at what amounted to a rancorous admission of defeat where his rhetoric would have suggested he should fight on.” Sometimes, argues Mr. Bershidsky, a two-party system merely “suppresses representation and makes people cling to increasingly meaningless political brands.” There is nothing wrong with a little “political innovation” when it becomes clear that the traditional dualism isn’t working anymore. However, he is skeptical that Mr. Flake is the type of “responsible leader” to form a new, strong party. Read more »


Benjamin Wittes in Lawfare:

“This speech will be remembered not merely for its eloquence and its moral correctness but also for its intellectual content and its courage at a particular moment in time.”

Mr. Wittes addresses those Never Trump conservatives who had hoped that Republican leaders like Mr. Corker and Mr. Flake would have stayed and fought. For Mr. Wittes, “the salient fact is that neither Flake nor Corker felt able to be true to themselves without taking the step of not having to face Republican voters again.” He admires these men who have “manufacture” the conditions in which they could speak the truth. Read more »


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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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