Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection, joining a growing number of Republican lawmakers who plan to give up their seat in the legislature — but not before taking some parting shots at the Trump administration in a fiery speech from the Senate floor.
Flake, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said he is not going to run for reelection because of the current state of the Republican Party.
“The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” Flake said to reporters. “It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
Then, Flake made his defiance known on the Senate floor, saying to his colleagues, “I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.”
Jeff Flake: “Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly or debased appetites in us.” pic.twitter.com/dYJgNmi4Cx
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 24, 2017
Flake also warned against the rise of hyper-nationalist, far-right politicians like Trump and their effect on American Democracy:
“If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”
Flake called out Trump’s shaky grasp on truth and said his populist appeal and bullying tactics could also spell the death of the GOP as it currently stands.
“There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party,” Flake said. “We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake.”
Read the full text of Flake’s speech here.