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Tue Oct 24, 2017, 04:00 PM

Charles P. Pierce: Republicans Need a Better Response Besides Quitting


Republicans Need a Better Response Besides Quitting
First Bob Corker, now Jeff Flake. We're one away from a dangerous trend.
By Charles P. Pierce
Oct 24, 2017

This is something of an earthquake, and the epicenter for the moment is in The Arizona Republic.

Condemning the nastiness of Republican politics in the era of President Donald Trump, Sen. Jeff Flake on Tuesday announced he will serve out the remainder of his term but will not seek re-election in 2018. The bombshell, which Flake, R-Ariz., intended to detail Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor, will further roil Republican hopes of keeping the party's 52-seat Senate majority in the midterm elections of Trump's first term, when the president's party historically loses seats in Congress. It also likely will upend the race for Flake's seat. Flake, one of the Senate's more prominent critics of President Donald Trump, has been struggling in the polls. He told The Arizona Republic ahead of his announcement that he has become convinced "there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party."

Now that last part is intriguing because, rather than duck into the warm rhetorical embrace of Our Polarized Age, Flake says flatly that the Republican Party has become so nutso bananas that there’s no place for even a bog-standard Reagan conservative like himself to feel comfortable.

It is true that Flake had a long push up a dirt road to get re-elected, and it is also true that his departure, along with that of Brave Bob Corker, accelerates the process by which the Republican majority in the Senate is transforming itself into a babbling replica of the Republican majority in the House, a process that is evidence enough of the virulence and the spread of the prion disease that has been eating away at the party’s higher functions for four decades.

But, still, this strikes me as a signifying event, if only because Republicans like Flake and Corker apparently see leaving office the only viable response to the fact that the president* is steering their party—and the country—over a cliff. If there ever was needed more evidence that movement conservatism, in its not-entirely-insane persona, is a spent force in American politics, watching Flake and Corker go scarpering away from public service would be it. Reaganism is long gone, and its pale progeny has been rendered irrelevant in the face of outright political thuggery. For Republican conservatives, it is Trump or the abyss.


His party is bound to get crazier, and the president* is completely around the bend. The most prominent Republican candidate for Jeff Flake’s seat is an osteopath named Kelli Ward who, in the past, has been chemtrail curious, at least as a constituent service, and who has popped in to chat with Alex Jones from time to time, and who has flirted with nullification as regards federal gun laws, and whose candidacy has been endorsed by both the president* and Steve Bannon, last heir to House Harkonnen.

It is possible, even likely, that the Republican “establishment” will find some conventional conservative to throw in there in order to keep Ward out of the general election, but I wouldn’t take odds on that succeeding. But none of that is Jeff Flake’s problem any more. It’s just ours.

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