On his way out the door, Flake trashes Trump, GOP: ‘My party might not deserve to lead’

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Thomas Phippen, DCNF

Departing Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, said his party might not deserve to lead if it abandons principles so easily in the face of Trump-style populism.

“Never has a party abandoned, fled its principles and deeply held beliefs so quickly as my party did as the face of the nativist juggernaut,” Flake said Thursday during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He criticized the Republican Party’s willingness to “pretend everything is fine and working as if it has always worked.” If the leaders choose to follow an “erratic leader” while rest of the world faces painful realities, “then my party might not deserve to lead,” Flake said.

“It has been a twisted road to this point, but we must see our way out of it,” Flake added. “And that, of course, requires a recognition of the danger we put ourselves in. It requires accountable leadership and it requires good old American will power.”

“We will get through this,” Flake continued. “And when we do, how refreshing it will be to once again have leaders who do not succumb to the impulse to attack the critic, and the criticism.”

Flake repeated his other criticisms that Trump’s obsession with “fake news” has inspired foreign dictators to jail and torment journalists in their own country.

Flake doesn’t have any plans to mount a presidential campaign to challenge Trump in 2020, but he had not ruled out the possibility, he said. “I think we need a conservative challenge,” Flake said.

Flake was asked about whether he fears his Arizona seat will flip to a Democrat in the 2018 midterms, and he said it was a concern. “We’re testing the limits of Trumpism,” Flake explained. “We’re realizing that you can only drill down on the base so far,” he said, referring to Democratic Representative-elect Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, who eked out a special election victory in a district Trump won by 20 points.

“If you can’t win a race in a plus-20 Trump district, it’s going to be tough to win in purple states,” Flake said.

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