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Jeff Flake is not the future of the Republican Party

Jeff Flake is not the future of the Republican Party

As the Arizona senator wrote, those in Congress - especially Republicans - "bear particular responsibility" for allowing it to get to this point and it is there job to stand up and do something.

"I'm very troubled about where the Republican Party is now", he said about his book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. "If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it", he wrote in an excerpt published by Politico.

But I think as conservatives, our first obligation is to be honest with people and telling factory workers for example - it's always easier for a politician to point to a shuttered factory and say "That's because of free trade".

"It seems elementary to have to form this thought, much less write these sentences, but here we are: I am a proud conservative and a lifelong Republican", Flake writes. Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, but they handicap the country in the long term.

In his piece, Flake said conservatives had erred by remaining silent when "the most egregious and sustained attacks on [President Barack] Obama's legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us". He relies on the support from conservatives and he is up for reelection in 2018. Not exactly a program of full-throated opposition.

"Jeff Flake is not a conservative, nor does he have a conscience", Bozell said in a statement posted on his Twitter account. (Flake: "Quel scandale!") He describes watching, during last year's Presidential election, as Trump turned to the likes of Michael Flynn ("a conspiracy theorist") for foreign-policy advice, and remembers thinking that Trump's ongoing "affection for authoritarians and strongmen" was "almost impossible to believe".

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But there's no contradiction in saying that Flake's criticism of Trump isn't some kind of awe-inspiring profile in courage yet is still significant. The simple reality is that Trump represents a total break from the way the Republican party has positioned itself vis a vis Russian Federation for more than three decades.

He says that Congress exists in part to serve as a check against "an executive branch in chaos" and that since the Republicans control both houses of Congress, they have a duty to stand up to Donald Trump - a duty they've failed to live up to.

If some coastal elitist liberal like me makes an argument like that, conservatives will dismiss it out of hand. Even if he might not win too many converts right away, he could at least plant seeds of doubt that could grow over time. They're not hard to find on the Internet or maybe even your hometown - people willing to deny stories about him as "fake news", or even to suggest his manifest flaws are actually virtues. After Nixon's defeat, and more than two years before the 1964 election, "Draft Goldwater for President committees" were formed in large measure as a response to L. Brent Bozell's eloquent framing of Goldwater's beliefs and principles.

At that moment, the question we often mull over - can Trump hold on to his party? - will become absolutely vital to the future of the country. Is it that somehow they've lost their way because they elected Donald Trump?

In the meantime, some Republicans are already separating themselves from him, albeit in limited ways.

A truly conservative party would have no trouble replacing the Obamacare mandates with individual choice in health insurance and reining in Medicaid costs to taxpayers. Many expressed displeasure with how he's trying to torture his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Some of them criticized his decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military. "They're good. They invite us to work across the aisle". The GOP is still emphatically behind Trump, to its everlasting shame.


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