From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
Yesterday Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, denounced President Trump in withering terms. Notice Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez’s response to Flake:
“Senator Flake voted with Donald Trump 91 percent of the time. His retirement is symbol of a Republican Party whose leaders allow Donald Trump’s divisive politics to flourish as long as it serves their political interests, and who fail to criticize this dangerous president until it’s too late.”
Flake takes the biggest political risk of his life, denouncing a president of his own party, echoing much of the Democratic argument against Trump, and the DNC… hits him for not opposing Trump more.
No state has a sufficient political constituency to keep a vehemently anti-Trump Republican in office, at least not yet. That is why the strongest denunciations of Trump will come from Republicans who do not have to (or are unlikely to) face the voters again, like Senators John McCain, Bob Corker and now Flake. A Republican lawmaker who turns against Trump loses a big chunk of his own supporters, and there aren’t enough independents left to make up the gap. Most Democrats will react like Perez, eager to (metaphorically) shoot the guy trying to cross the battlefield to switch to their side. Most Democrats don’t want to be represented by an anti-Trump Republican; they want to be represented by an anti-Trump Democrat.
Perez gives the game away: He wants Republicans to do the right thing, put principle over party, blah blah blah so that once they do, they are much easier to beat in subsequent elections.
Face it, the history of Republicans drifting to the Left, both formally and informally, and turning against their party’s leadership is not a tale of heroic iconoclasm and triumphant consciences. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats, giving them control of Congress, because he wanted to save the Northeast Dairy Compact, which artificially inflated milk prices for consumers. In the early Obama years, Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist left the GOP on the principled stand that they didn’t want to lose a primary. Maybe Flake is different, but we’ve been conditioned to see Republicans who turn against the rest of the party to media hosannas as being the opposite of principled.