Earlier this week, Arizona Senator and newly minted #Resistance icon Jeff Flake took the hardest anti-Trump stance of any Republican to date. In a speech before the Senate floor, Flake said congressional control wasn’t worth the GOP’s ride on the Trump train. “It’s my obligation to be critical,” Flake said.
The reception was predictably positive. CNN called it “the most important speech of 2017.” Chris Cillizza, in all his blubbering ineptitude, likened Flake’s speech to a kamikaze mission. Since Flake isn’t running for re-election, he has nothing to lose in taking on big bad Trump.
But that’s where all the centrist praise falls flat. Flake’s words mean nothing if there’s nothing at stake. He isn’t putting his career on the line or taking any kind of risk whatsoever. All he did was say what most sane Republicans have been thinking since Trump arrived on the scene.
Anti-Trump conservatives and centrist Democrats love buddying up to any Republican congressperson that appears to give the president a taste of his own medicine. Everyone drooled over John McCain when he “dramatically” voted no on Obamacare repeal and made an anti-nationalism speech. Even the uninspiring Bob Corker had folks rallying around him when he made disparaging comments about Trump earlier this year (and more this week). Yet somehow, Trump’s odious behavior has continued.
Flake is a symptom of the Trump syndrome, not a cure. He remained silent and complicit because he, like the rest of his GOP brethren, recognized the opportunity a Trump victory would give the party. Full control of the executive and legislative branches of government is what national political fever dreams are made of. Imagine what they might be able to accomplish, the human rights and status they would be able to rip away from average Americans if they didn’t have a belligerent orange man baby as president.
Flake’s Trump flip didn’t stop him from voting for a bill denying consumers the right to sue large companies and financial institutions. He was all in on Obamacare repeal, and all the other Republican garbage legislation and social positions.
His speech is the perfect example of false courage. Flake’s words only come off as bold because of the overflow of cowardice surrounding him. The Republican Party has been operating without a spine since 2012. The moment any one of them says anything within a whiff of “Trump is bad,” the party’s collective sphincter tightens up more than the race in Wisconsin.
Would Flake speaking out during the 2016 election have made a difference? It’s hard to say. Donald Trump eats petty political feuds for breakfast; he turns the whole argument on its head, making it about how much the other person hates him instead of his own shitty behavior. But at the very least, Flake would’ve proved his dignity hadn’t shriveled up under the heat of Trump’s tanning lamps.
Instead, Flake’s words ring hollow, except for those clinging at any and every chance to bring Trump down. At this point, they might be the only people more delusional than Trump himself.