Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) delivered a scathing speech about President Trump from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, as he officially announced that he will not run for reelection in 2018.
Flake, who has publicly clashed with Trump since the president’s election, shocked the political world when he decided not to seek another term amid a primary challenge from the right that is being propped up by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets … has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party,” Flake said on the Senate floor, as more than a dozen senators listened to him deliver his speech.
“It’s also clear to me, for the moment, that we have given in or given up on our core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. … But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”
Flake took direct aim at Trump and condemned the current state of politics, arguing that Americans should not become acclimated to the “coarseness of our dialogue with the tone set up at the top.” The Arizona senator sent a warning that behavior dubbed as a “tell it like it is” attitude can be “dangerous” to democracy.
“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake said. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country, the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations — most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing to whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve.”
Without acknowledging his primary challenger by name, Flake also took some shots at former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who has the backing of pro-Trump outside group Great America Alliance, adding that other priorities need to be put before worrying about appealing to the base.
“When we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations … we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations,” Flake said. “Those things are far more important than politics.”