A well-known Republican senator just turned his back on President Donald Trump … and may have given the political middle finger to his entire party at the same time.
On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona delivered a speech at the National Press Club in which he slammed members of his own party for staying loyal to Trump and declared that Republicans “might not deserve to lead.”
Perhaps even more shockingly, Flake also appeared ready to throw his hat into the 2020 race, hinting that he might consider challenging the incumbent president for the GOP nomination.
“It’s not in my plan to run for president, but I am not ruling it out,” he teased, according to Fox News. “Somebody needs to stand up for traditional Republicanism. Somebody needs to raise that, for nothing else than to give people hope that that decent party will be back. We’ll get through this.”
Those are strong words for a lawmaker who is struggling with his own political career. Flake, who is set to retire after this term, is considered the second-least popular senator according to a detailed January poll by Morning Consult.
Only Sen. Mitch McConnell, another policy maker who is often critical of Trump, had a worse position on the popularity list.
Flake also seems to have forgotten that Trump didn’t magically wake up in the White House one day; he defeated a crowded field of Republican challengers in the 2016 primary.
In race after race, Trump bested more traditional GOP candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. If anything, voters sent a message that “traditional Republicanism” wasn’t actually what they were looking for. Flake seems to have missed that memo.
As for the Arizona senator’s chances of unseating Trump during the 2020 election, he’s facing a steep uphill battle.
“It’s virtually impossible to beat an incumbent for the nomination,” explained Steve Duprey, a New Hampshire Republican National Committee official. “But that doesn’t prevent people from trying with various degrees of seriousness.”
Flake seemed to acknowledge that bumping Trump from the GOP ticket would be tough, and also revealed that he might consider running as an independent.
“I’m not ruling that out either,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of other people in the party looking for something else.”
Flake is certainly allowed to challenge the president if he feels the country is headed in the wrong direction, but his comment that Republicans “might not deserve to lead” is deeply troubling. He has essentially thrown his entire own party — not just Trump — under the bus, despite the GOP’s sweeping election victories just 18 months ago.
True to his name, Flake may be getting cold feet about Republican leadership, but perhaps he should remember that it’s the American people, not him, who choose the nation’s officials.
By smugly criticizing the party that won the White House, the Senate and the House, he is also disparaging the choices of the voters … and may just be in for a surprise if he tries to seize the political spotlight next November.
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