When Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced in October that he’d retire at the end of his current term, the Arizona Republican made clear he was dissatisfied, not only with Donald Trump, but with the direction of his party. Soon after, when Alabama Republicans nominated Roy Moore in a Senate special election, Flake supported the Democratic candidate.
Over the weekend, the GOP senator appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” and continued to speak out in ways most Republicans don’t.
“…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…. He’s probably inviting a Republican challenge as well. But certainly an independent challenge, yes.”
When pressed, Flake did not explicitly rule out the possibility of his own 2020 national campaign. He went on to criticize Trump’s rejection of “shared facts” as being bad for democracy, and said the president’s support for Roy Moore’s candidacy will leave a “lasting” stain on the GOP.
Perhaps most strikingly, Flake added in the same interview, in reference to his party’s base, “When you look at some of the audiences cheering for Republicans sometimes you look out there and you say, ‘Those are the spasms of a dying party.’ When you look at the lack of diversity sometimes – and it depends on where you are, obviously – but by and large, we’re appealing to older white men and there are just a limited number of them, and anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy. So you have to actually govern and do something, and sooner or later the votes will figure out, I think they are and have, that we’ve gotta have something else.”
I imagine for many Americans discouraged by Trump and Republican radicalism, Flake’s on-air comments struck an encouraging chord. There’s just one problem: Flake’s voting record.
As much as the Arizona senator sounds the alarm about the contemporary GOP, by one metric, Flake still votes with Trump more than 90% of the time, including voting with his party on the Republicans’ regressive and unpopular tax breaks. Flake also continues to support Trump’s most outrageous judicial nominees, just as he continues to vote for his party’s far-right agenda across the board.
It’s curious to see a senator lament “the spasms of a dying party,” only to see that same senator link arms with his brethren in that “dying party,” voting for each of its priorities.
The disconnect is more than a little jarring.