Some Republican senators are leaving, but they’re not going gently into that good night. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced today that he would not seek re-election. He followed that speech up with an insightful and articulate smack down of the discord and dysfunction that the presidency of Donald Trump has wrought in our nation. Here’s a snippet of it from the New York Times. I encourage you to read the entire thing.
Mr. President, I rise today to say: enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it.
We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that. Here today I stand to say that we would be better served — we would better serve the country — by better fulfilling our obligations under the Constitution by adhering to our Article 1 — “old normal,” Mr. Madison’s doctrine of separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary — and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract with each other, if necessary.
“Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote. But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, we Republicans — would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats?
Of course we wouldn’t, and we would be wrong if we did. When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.
And here’s the second time in two days that a member of congress has called upon Trump overtly to stop with the twitter inanity. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called upon Trump yesterday to “stop tweeting and start leading,” and now Senator Flake:
If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States.
If I have been critical, it is because I believe it is my obligation to do so. And as a matter and duty of conscience, the notion that one should stay silent — and as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.
Flake makes sense here. What also makes sense is that with Flake and Corker walking away and McCain as well, what we will find ourselves dealing with are Bannon chosen candidates running for the senate and that is already in the works. Bannon is a supporter of Kelli Ward, who ran unsuccessfully against both Flake and John McCain. She may prevail on this occasion with both senators retiring at the end of their respective terms. Wingnut Mark Green is being considered for Corker’s seat in Tennessee.
Remember the old adage, the devil that you know is better than the devil you don’t know and the devils that Steve Bannon knows are ones that we emphatically don’t need in the House, Senate, anywhere, beyond footnotes in the pages of history. We must make sure that Democrats go into the vacuum created by these senators leaving, not right wing crazies, it’s as simple as that.
It’s an encouraging sign to see Republican senators stand up to Donald Trump. Hopefully Flake’s speech is a sign of the shape of things to come.