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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) delivers the most courageous conservative rebuttal of Trumpism yet

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In the Washington Post James Hohman has a nice (and lengthy) comment on Jeff Flake’s new book:

THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Jeff Flake believes Donald Trump is a modern-day Robert Welch.

To understand why the Arizona Republican is risking his political career this week to publish a book lambasting the president requires familiarity with a pivotal but largely forgotten episode in the early history of the modern conservative movement.

It was 1962 — the same year Flake was born. Robert Welch, a retired candy maker, had won a massive following on the right as the leader of the extremist John Birch Society. The Birchers were trying to attach themselves to the emerging presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, wanted to write Welch and his kooky ideas out of the movement.

Recognizing that it could cost him crucial support, Goldwater nonetheless endorsed the effort. “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner,” the Arizona senator wrote for the magazine.

Flake considers himself an ideological heir to Goldwater, who once held his seat. He served as the executive director of the Goldwater Institute think tank in Phoenix for seven years before getting elected to the House. He worked closely with the then-retired senator, who passed away in 1998. The 54-year-old often asks himself, “What would Goldwater do?” And feels confident that his hero “would not be pleased or amused” by either the state of the GOP or Trump.

Halfway through his new book, published yesterday, Flake notes that Goldwater’s stand against Welch inspired him to speak out against Trump — even though he knows the risks: “We now have a far-right press that too often deals in unreality and a White House that has brought the values of Robert Welch into the West Wing. As a certain kind of extremism is again ascendant in our ranks, we could do well to take a lesson from that earlier time. We must not condone it. We must not use it to frighten and exploit the base. We must condemn it, in no uncertain terms.”

As an homage, Flake titled his book “Conscience of a Conservative” — the name of Goldwater’s seminal work. He mostly wrote the 140-page manifesto in secret. He did not even tell some of his advisers that he was working on it lest they try to talk him out of putting these ideas on paper.

“I feel compelled to declare: This is not who we are,” the senator writes. “Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, ‘Someone should do something!’ without seeming to realize that that someone is us. … The question is: Will enough of us stand up and wrest it back before it is too late? Or will we just go along with it, for our many and varied reasons? Those are open and unresolved questions. … This is not an act of apostasy. This is an act of fidelity.”

To paraphrase Buckley, Flake now stands athwart Trump, yelling stop, at a time when few others in his movement are inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

— The border-state senator became inspired to immerse himself in this project during a trip to Mexico City two weeks after the election, where he struggled to soothe Mexican concerns about NAFTA, the wall and anti-immigrant sentiments. “That conservatism has become compromised by other powerful forces — nationalism, populism, xenophobia, extreme partisanship, even celebrity — explains part of how and why we lost our way,” Flake writes. “That we who call ourselves conservative have been willing partners in that compromise explains the rest.”

Just how bad have things gotten in his view? The Republican fears that the term Orwellian “seems quaint now” and “inadequate to our moment.” He muses about the need to devise a new word for the new age “to describe the previously indescribable.”

“Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign,” writes Flake, who has never been known for hyperbole. “And when you suddenly decide that you don’t believe what had recently been your most deeply held beliefs, then you open yourself to believing anything — or maybe nothing at all. Following the lead of a candidate who had a special skill for identifying problems, if not for solving them, we lurched like a tranquilized elephant from a broad consensus on economic philosophy and free trade that had held for generations to an incoherent and often untrue mash of back-of-the-envelope populist slogans.”

As Flake sees it, “We were party to a very big lie.” “Seemingly overnight, we  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2017 at 10:02 am

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