Arizona senator Jeff Flake has announced he will not stand for re-election in 2018 in a defiant speech aimed directly at Donald Trump.
The Republican clearly and directly targeted the president, declaring among other things that he would “no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behaviour.
Senator Flake is part of a growing group of Republican party members who are slowly straying away from Trump’s agenda.
Senator Corker, Senator McCain, former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and ex-president George W. Bush are so far the most visible Republican figures that have distanced themselves from the presidency.
Mr. Flake announced his retirement from the next senate term while simultaneously challenging both Trump and the party’s leadership, calling them “complicit” with their “servile” approval.
“I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our – all of our – complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs,” he said.
“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”
The Senator denounced a “casual undermining of our democratic ideals” and that “personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency” have become “the new normal” in American politics in the Trump era.
Although many Republicans will be wary of the increasing displays of division among visible party officials – especially on the eve of Trump’s much-publicised tax reform –
Flake’s announcement did please Republicans in Arizona and Washington who saw him as an electoral hindrance.
Flake’s firm stance against Trump had alienated him from Republican voters to the point where he only had 18 percent approval rating among Arizona residents.
There’s two things we can get from Senator Flake’s brave discourse. One is that there are still some decent Republicans who are willing to put country before party; the second is that crossing Trump in the current climate is political suicide.
You can check out the full transcript here, but these are some of our favorite excerpts:
“Reckless, outrageous and undignified behaviour has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”
“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.”
“We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.”
You can watch the full address below, complete with plenty of epic burns and scathing remarks: