I've been enjoying the intense indignation spewing from both the left and right over Sen. Jeff Flake's pragmatic decision to run for the hills. My enjoyment has spiked particularly over the left's exasperation, as voiced right on cue by Esquire's Charles Pierce.
"One could ask Flake in all good faith where in the hell he’s been over the 40 years of Republican politics that made Trumpism inevitable…. One of his last acts before hitting the silk was to vote on a budget resolution that is as full of moonshine as any Republican budget proposal has been since the party decided to take Arthur Laffer seriously…. It’s hard to parse Flake’s logic as anything but abject surrender [to Trump]."
One could also ask in all good faith why Flake's Goldwaterite libertarianism is responsible for Trump's non-ideological villainy. The "bone-spur bozo," as the Times' Roger Cohen has taken to calling him, was of course the inevitable outcrop of the GOP rabble's 40-year turn to assorted resentments, blind hostilities, and utterly untethered madness. But Flake's support of a "moonshine" budget resolution that aims to further liberate the wealthy from their civic responsibilities as well as further cripple government would have materialized no matter which GOP crackpot had been elevated to the White House. Where in hell has Flake been over the 40 years of degenerating Republican politics? Right where he should have been — in the Republican Party. Look, Flake actually believes in his ultralibertarian horseshit, which he interprets as high principles. Hence for the left to impossibly suggest that had Flake only behaved more like a highly principled leftie is a political conceit nearly as goofy as the senator's Goldwaterite libertarianism.
Pierce's addition that "It's hard to parse Flake's logic [to quit the Senate] as anything but abject surrender" to Trump was also the anti-Trump intellectual right's instant cri de coeur. Ross Douthat's observation was representative: "There is a small but significant Republican opposition to Trump, but its leading figures still don’t want to go to war with him directly, preferring philosophical attacks and tactical withdrawal to confrontation and probable defeat." Douthat's indignation is identical to Pierce's.
Which leads us to the right's Jennifer Rubin's recently unearthed rationality. "Perhaps Flake, freed from the obligation to seek reelection, will go 'rogue,' as it were, with Corker to blast the president’s rhetoric and block irresponsible legislation…. Who knows — Corker-Flake in 2020? Stranger things have happened." I wouldn't expect Flake and Corker to help block irresponsible legislation — because they are, after all, Republicans. Sen. McCain was asked by a rent-a-reporter this week if he would now oppose Trump on all legislation since McCain despises Trump, to which the senator understandably answered: That's a stupid question. To expect a Republican pol to vote against Republican legislation merely because Trump is a fucking moron is an adolescent expectation. But blasting the president's rhetoric and wholesale degradation of his office is an altogether different proposition.
And it could be that Corker and Flake will form something of a 2020 alliance. As Flake told the Arizona Republic yesterday: "There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party."
There is one way to find out — run against the ulcerating plague of Trump and Trumpian Republicanism in 2020 (assuming Bob Mueller doesn't resect the ulceration first). But neither Flake nor Corker could do a credible job of it if both are burdened by 2018 Senate reelection runs. Which is why I have so enjoyed reading the intense indignation and dismay spewing from both the left and right over both Flake and Corker's pragmatic decision to run for the hills — for now.