One Republican senator up for reelection next year is wasting no time distancing himself from the deeply unpopular and incompetent president, writing in an op-ed that his party is “in denial” about Donald Trump.
In an excerpt from his upcoming book published on Monday by Politico, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake wrote, “We created [Trump], and now we’re rationalizing him. When will it stop?”
More from the Republican senator’s devastating editorial:
Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process? With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.
It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.
I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party. Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”
Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.
It’s now official: Republicans – at least those, like Flake, who care about keeping their seats in Congress – are sprinting away from Trump as his presidency continues to erupt in a flames.
As I wrote on Saturday, the GOP is finally starting to panic about the chaos and incompetence that plague the White House. Even they appear to have a limit to how unhinged they’ll allow this president to become.
For months, Republicans have remained silent or even defended the president as he embarrassed and endangered the country through his childish Twitter tantrums, pathological lying, and inability to manage his own White House. Now, the party no longer has a choice but to walk away before the fire engulfs them, too.
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.
Sen. Flake is one of the biggest names yet to voice such strong and harsh concerns about the dangerous president, but he certainly won’t be the last to do so.