U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced his decision not seek re-election in 2018. His term in the Senate will end in early January of 2019.
Flake is among the Republicans critical of President Donald Trump. He is among the targets of former White House strategist Steve Bannon to unseat in the Senate. His decision is a boon for Bannon, who declared a war on the GOP establishment.
Last month, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, another Trump critic, decided to retire after his term expires at end of 2018.
Flake condemns the current political environment
In a blistering speech on Tuesday, Flake highlighted the crudeness of the current politics and leadership in the United States.
According to him, it seems the country’s democracy is more by defined by its leaders’ “political discord and “dysfunction” than their “values and principles.”
Flake said, “I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret because of the state of our disunion.” The senator also regrets the disrepair and destructiveness of the country’s politics, indecency of discourse, and coarseness of its leadership.
Additionally, he expressed regret for the compromise of moral authority and complicity the alarming and dangerous state of affairs.
Furthermore, the Arizona Senator told his fellow lawmakers that they must not adjust to the present of coarseness of the national debate. They must not accept the casual undermining of America’s democratic norms and ideals as the new normal.
Flake emphasized, “None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now… we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.”
Silence and inaction is wrong
The Arizona senator reminded his colleagues that they can better serve the country and fulfill their obligations under the Constitution by adhering to the Article 1 “old normal.” It is the duty if the equal branches of the government to balance and counteract each other when necessary.
According to Flake, they are dishonoring their principles and forsaking their obligations when they know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political consideration.
Moreover, the senator said politically savvy people warned him against such talk. He is aware that a segment of the GOP considers an incomplete disloyalty to the President that belongs to their party is unacceptable.
Flake says it’s his obligation to criticize Trump
Flake explained that he has been critical of Trump because it is his “obligation” as a “matter of duty and conscience.” He believes that it is profoundly misguided to stay silent when the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined. It is wrong to keep quiet when the agreements and alliances that ensure the stability of the entire world are threatened.
In his speech, Flake said the late Republican President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
The Arizona senator pointed out that their “loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party.”
“Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us. Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum (From many, one).”
American leadership is now in question
According to Flake, America resisted focusing inward during World War II. Instead, it contributed to the economic activity of around 50% of the world. America helped in rebuilding the countries greatly defeated and weakened by the war. It created international organizations and institutions that helped provide security and prosperity worldwide for more than 70 years.
“Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it,” said Flake. He pointed out that the world is now questioning the effectiveness of American leadership.
Flake does not want to be complicit. He does not want to compromise his values and principles. He believes that he can better serve the people of Arizona and America by freeing himself from political considerations.