Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will be retiring at the end of his term. That retirement can be safely described as forced by President Donald Trump and the people of Arizona who find the senator far different today than the man they elected initially.
Flake defines himself as the true definition of a conservative. But through the senator’s own actions while in office, a different tale can be told. Rather than argue his case in a re-election campaign, he has chosen to step aside to avoid a very rough GOP primary in 2018.
The questionable conservative he portends to be is not going quietly into retirement. He has chosen to go down in swinging fashion. That includes exchanging potshots at his president and the party he represents through the media.
Last week on ABC’s “This Week” he described Republican rallies as “spasms of a dying party.” One would construe that as a comment from someone not affiliated with the party in question. But this is a man elected as a Republican who further claims that his party will be clobbered by Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.
Such comments have brought surprise and condemnation from party loyalists and shocked voters. The president has made it clear he is happy to see the former conservative-talking lawmaker retire from politics.
But in a longtime red state that is showing signs of progressive blue these days, is Flake making a play to the left? One only needs to study his own words: “When you look at the lack of diversity, sometimes, and it depends on where you are, obviously, but by and large, we’re (the GOP) appealing to older white men and there are just a limited number of them, and anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”
This is a politician who ran for office representing a defined political ideology. It was his choice and now apparently a bad decision. But it seems the truth of the matter is that his anger is misdirected. The party left a politician whose popularity has waned because he has moved further to the left. That is not the person they voted for.
Sen. Flake represents ideas that are not aligned to the conservative stance he previously espoused. He made a pragmatic decision to challenge the president of his party openly and with hostility. That distanced his base of support that is applauding the actions of President Trump.
The Arizona Daily Independent cited Flake’s use of the term “dying party” as ludicrous. Their editorial staff found the state’s Republicans to be doing well with their electorate. The statistics from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office in October 2017 showed that more than 3.6 million registered voters in the state, 34.6 percent were Republicans, compared to 30.2 percent registered as Democrats and 34.1 percent who were registered Independents.
The margins are closing and Flake is what is termed a RINO. That stands for “Republican in Name Only.” He may see an opportunity to sell his wares to the opposing camp.
All this aside, it seems the breaking point between Arizona Republicans, the president, and Flake on the outside looking in. The Washington Post reported that Flake was voicing his disfavor of the Republican Party’s new populist shift. That can only mean he was unhappy with Trump’s election.
Flake also expressed dismay with Trump advisor Steve Bannon and his support for defeated Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore. Most Republicans agree Moore was not an ideal candidate, but he was the Republican candidate in a deep red state. His comments were a direct attack upon the party he represents. He was quoted by The Post as saying, Advertisement - story continues below
“The last thing we need is to push that ultra-nationalist, ethno-nationalist, protectionist kind of element of the party. That’s not good for us.”
It presents the question; who was Flake speaking to? He continued by prognosticating past the 2018 midterm elections. He intimated Trump will face difficulty in garnering enough support for re-election from his own party.
Is that where the senator has future aspirations? Will he set himself up as the Eugene McCarthy of his own or former party? If so, his extended comments included, “I do believe if the president is running for re-election, if he continues on the path that he’s on, that that’s gonna leave a huge swath of voters looking for something else.”
So is Flake setting the stage for his own presidential campaign outside the box? “I don’t rule anything out, but it’s not in my plans.”
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr. is an award-winning national political and foreign affairs columnist and published author. He has spent over 35 years in the publishing industry. His long-running articles include many years at Examiner.com and currently Newsblaze.com. Dwight is an author of two highly acclaimed books, "Redistribution of Common Sense - Selected Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014" and "The Game Changer - America's Most Stunning Election in History." He is a native of Portland, Oregon, a journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, and a resident of the SF Bay Area. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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