Politics

Sen. Jeff Flake Drops Out

Arizona Never-Trumper declines to seek re-election after Bannon, Ingraham vowed to oppose him in 2018

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) dropped out of the 2018 Senate race on Tuesday, saying he would not seek re-election.

The senator took to the floor of the United States Senate just after 3 p.m. to give an emotional speech in which he hit out at President Donald Trump, accusing him of calling “fake things true and true things fake” and complained of a “flagrant disregard of truth and decency” in American politics.

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“Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” said Flake. “And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.”

Flake also chided the president, using his children.

“The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics,” he said from the Senate floor. “Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.”

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In his speech, Flake set up numerous straw men, only to knock them down, saying it’s wrong to blindly support the president and wrong to support party over principle.

“Heaven help us,” he said at one point.

But sprinkled throughout the speech was an appeal to go back to the old ways of the Republican and Democratic Establishment parties.

Flake said the United States had often engaged in nation-building over the last 70 years, with much success. He also defended free trade. But free trade was widely seen as a failed tonic to the problems of industrial America, and Trump successfully communicated with voters that the multiple trade treaties the nation entered had been abused by foreign competitors. The trade treaties, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the U.S.-Korean treaty, were “bad deals.”

Left unsaid was how poorly Flake was doing in the polls. First elected to the Senate in 2012, Flake saw his approval ratings go south as he constantly criticized candidate Trump, and then President Trump. Flake did not vote for Trump for president last November.

Flake is being challenged from the right by Dr. Kelli Ward, a former state senator who challenged Arizona’s other Republican senator, John McCain, in 2016. An early poll showed Ward beating Flake, even before she’d officially announced her candidacy.

That announcement came on October 17 when Ward kicked off her campaign in Scottsdale, Arizona, with former presidential strategist Steve Bannon, now the executive chairman of Breitbart, and Laura Ingraham, the founder and editor-in-chief of LifeZette.

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The high-profile event only emphasized Flake’s diminished popularity among Republicans in the state.

Ingraham, who often called Flake “snowflake,” said in her speech in Arizona that Flake should “spare us” the next 14 months left in his term and resign. In that case, the Republican governor would appoint a temporary replacement.

Ingraham noted Flake was out of touch with GOP voters: “Flake was for the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership, NAFTA, open [immigration], blanket amnesty — and had Hillary won, he’d be happy today.”

(photo credit, homepage images: …Jeff Flake, Reversed Composition, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article images: …Jeff Flake, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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