On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced that he will not be seeking re-election when his current term runs out in 2018. But he took this announcement above and beyond, as Senator Flake's retirement speech slammed President Donald Trump and his leadership. It was a pretty intense thing to behold, considering the monstrosity of the current political climate and that this was coming from a Republican.
"Politics can make us silent when we should speak," Flake said in his speech on the Senate floor in Washington D.C., "and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent."
He explained that it would be better for him to leave Congress in order to serve Americans and his conscience by "freeing myself of the political consideration that consumed far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles."
Flake didn't stop at going off just on Trump — he also criticized the state of his party. He explained that as a "traditional conservative" who, he says, believes in limited government, free markets and trade, and is pro-immigration has "a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party." He insinuated that the party has lost its hold on those noted values and stances.
Flake's speech used plentiful words to describe his disapproval of the Trump presidency. He said,
We must never adjust to the coarseness of our dialogue, with the tone set up at the top. We must never accept the deadly sundering of our country. The personal attacks, threats against principles and freedoms and institutions, and flagrant disregard for decency.
The Arizona senator went on to say,
Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.
Flake has never been particularly shy of his distaste for Trump. This past summer, Politico published an excerpt from his book that criticized the GOP for allowing Trump to rise to this position of power. He wrote,
It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama's legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us.
This resignation speech, Flake said on Tuesday, was to tell Trump "enough."
So while a speech making strongly-worded jabs at both Trump and the Republican party isn't exactly surprising coming from this particular Republican, Flake's announcement that he will not be seeking re-election can actually have real effects.
With Flake not running for re-election in 2018, that leaves one more seat in the Senate open in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Should a Democrat run and be able to fill Flake's spot, that would help to flip the Senate to be majority Democrat. Should that happen, Trump and the Republicans would find it even more difficult to actually get any legislation through (at this point, all their failed attempts are just their own fault due to party in-fighting; should the Senate flip, however, Republicans would have an outside excuse as to why they're not getting anything done).
Not to mention, if Flake's anti-Trump speech is already this inflammatory while he's still an official member of the Republican party, it's going to get increasingly interesting to see what he has to say about the government when he doesn't have votes to worry about.
But, most importantly, the country has a big round of elections coming up in 2018. It's more important than ever that millennial voters make sure they're paying attention and registered to vote.