Home National Politics Virginia Politicians Weigh In – or Stay Silent – On Jeff Flake’s...

Virginia Politicians Weigh In – or Stay Silent – On Jeff Flake’s Big Speech


See below for video of Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech to the U.S. Senate this afternoon, and reactions from Virginia politicians. How much do you want to bet that Ed “Profiles in Cowardice” Gillespie won’t say anything about this?

For my part, while I certainly agree with Flake’s words in this speech and wish that every Republican would express the same sentiments, in the end I look at actions much more than words, no matter how stirring those words might sound. In Flake’s case, for instance, here’s 538’s scorecard for Flake: 91.7% “Trump Score,” +31.1 “Trump plus-minus” (“Difference between Flake’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores”). For instance, Flake voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to throw millions of Americans off of health insurance. Flake also voted to ram through the stolen Supreme Court seat nomination of Neil Gorsuch. And Flake voted for the horrendous FY 2018 GOP budget resolution. I could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Flake is no hero; if he were, he’d STAY in the Senate, switch to “independent,” fight Trump with every fiber of his being, and run for reelection. Instead, Flake undoubtedly just made ultra-cynical, calculating, soulless Mitch McConnell very happy (if someone so cynical and soulless can even be happy!) today, as this makes it more likely Republicans will hold that Senate seat next year…ugh.

  • Old Matt

    The Bannon-wing of the GOP claims another scalp tho

  • Andy Schmookler

    This can be good news. I just wrote in my notes today, “I hope that more sane GOP leaders retire in this cycle. Retirement frees these Senators from needing to woo the Republican base. And maybe, like Corker and John McCain, they can use their freedom to talk to the American people about the danger that Trump poses to the nation.”

    Now Flake has retired. But he will remain a U.S. Senator from now until the beginning of 2019. And that gives him a platform to speak, when it is a time when many of the people who elected him and elected Trump need to hear important things said.

    I am betting that Flake will indeed be speaking up. His leaving the Senate means that he’ll likely never have a major political role again. So this is his chance to play this role for the history books.

    That’s what John McCain is clearly doing. And he’s having the time of his life. I hope that Jeff Flake is made of similar stout material.

  • Andy Schmookler

    Is it reasonable to hope that Flake might end up helping the Democrat to win the seat next year? After all, if the GOP nominee is the right-wing nut-job who was challenging him, and who would clearly help prop of Trump, and if Trump represents the threat to basic American values that Flake conjured up in his speech today, how is he going to support Trump through supporting the GOP in that election?

    He COULD just be silent. But if he’s serious about the problem with Trump and what he’s doing to American democracy with his lies and his indecency, perhaps he will come out and endorse the Democrat who will use that seat to try to limit the damage that Trump is doing.

    Which will it be: 1) support the Republican, 2) stay silent, or 3) endorse the Democrat? I think # 1 is the least likely of the three.

  • woodrowfan

    Flake still voted with trump over 90% of the time. He voted to strip people of health care, and to approve Sessions as Atty Gen. The republicans have gone so far around the bend that even a RWer like Flake was going to lose his primary to an Alex Jones fan.

  • Perseus1986

    ” as this makes it more likely Republicans will hold that Senate seat next year…ugh”. How so? An incumbent with an inherent infrastructural and financial advantage over any challenger is leaving, in a state that is following the trends of other populous western states in becoming more purple. I can’t think of anything that could make it more likely that Dems will pick up this seat next year.

    • It could go either way, I suppose, but my argument is that Flake would have been a super-weak incumbent highly vulnerable to: a) a vicious GOP primary that could have torn the party apart; b) losing in the general election. Now, Dems can still win that seat, but I’d argue that the intra-GOP bloodletting might be less than it was before and that it’s POSSIBLE the Republicans will nominate someone stronger than Flake for the general election. We’ll see…

    • Just saw this comment, which I thought worth sharing:

      “Right wing nut cases” are the Republican partys base now. Flake would have been beatable BECAUSE, hes a “relatively principled conservstive.” Right wing voters don’t want principle, they want red meat, which Kelli Ward will be happy to supply, extra bloody.

      We don’t know for sure yet how this will impact the senate race, but we do know for certain that we no longer get to run against the most vulnerable senator of either party. Now we have to run against a fresh, fiery, trumpette, who is unencumbered by troublesome concepts like morality, principle, or honesty.

      Flake not running is probably the best thing he could do to ensure his party keeps that seat, and his anti-trump speech was probably the best thing he could do to rile up Trumps base in Arizona, and ensure that they show up to vote in legion.

      • Perseus1986

        With the caveat that I have no insight into the intricacies of Arizona politics other than broad electoral, population and demographic data, (which thus makes me as qualified as an H. Clinton campaign staffer jk), I’d still say that Flake was vulnerable to be beaten in a primary, but had he bypassed the primary or pulled a Murkowski, he would have better odds than a Tea Party/Trumpist challenger in winning the seat. Aside from the Murkowski case, the Indiana 2012 Senate race comes to mind, where a Tea Party insurgent (Mourdock) beat the traditional conservative incumbent (Lugar), but then his extreme positions and deplorable comments on rape cost him the general election. A different and smaller electorate (more extreme) tends to show up for primaries, and the extreme base is usually not enough to carry the candidate through victory in the general if the candidate doesn’t branch out, or holds firm to their extreme positions. Obviously the response to this would be “what about Trump”, but midterm elections tend to draw less attention, especially from the new voters that Trump brought in, and it is yet to be proven if Trump has long coattails down ballot (we may sort of find out in two weeks).

    • See http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/25/flake-retirement-senate-republicans-2018-244132

      “Establishment Republicans are sad to see Sen. Jeff Flake go. But his Tuesday retirement announcement came with a silver lining: They believe it gives the GOP a better chance of holding Arizona’s seat — and the Senate majority — next November…Now, the ability to swap in a different Republican for Flake — one who has not repeatedly set fire to bridges with the Republican Party’s Trump-loving base — could give the GOP a better shot against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema next fall, multiple Republicans said.”

  • Andy Schmookler

    As indicated by the recent commenters, Flake wasn’t going to be the Republican nominee.

    (Flake has been too critical of Trump since too far back to maintain strong support in the Republican base, despite his being far to the right on issues. Apparently, according to Democrats in Congress, Flake is a person of integrity, for whom Trump’s damage and threat to the nation comes up against strong principles.)

    A right-wing-nut will be easier for a Democrat to defeat to the extent that Flake-type Republicans in Arizona can be persuaded to support a decent Democrat, or at least not the Republican. (Though admittedly, with Flake out, someone else may win the nomination by being more sane like Flake but without having accumulated the baggage.)

    And Arizona is a state where the 2016 race, though won by Trump, was reasonably close. It is a state that is trending blue.

    So it will be interesting to watch at least two things: 1) whether Senators Flake and McCain will try to bring a part of their base away from the Trumpist GOP (and whether, if they do, they will succeed), and 2) whether the Democrats will be able to field a strong candidate.

    (I lived in Arizona during the era of Mo Udall, and of Bruce Babbitt, so I know the Democratic Party in Arizona has fielded some strong leaders. But I am not up to date on what kind of bench the Democrats have there now.)

  • Edwin

    After Senator Flake released his book, his approval rating plummeted to 18%. The Republican base didn’t want to hear him speak out about Trump then, and they sure wont care to hear about it now.

    He’s walking a tight line where Republicans hate him for what he says about the President, and Democrats don’t want him because he’s not willing to do anything about the President.

  • Andy Schmookler

    I would agree that it is unclear just how this will impact the 2018 Senate race in Arizona. But we also ought not forget about the larger battle at the national level, where we have a crisis because Donald Trump is president.

    Republicans calling out Trump — as Flake just did, as Corker and McCain and W. Bush have lately done — can matter in terms of the larger destiny of the nation.

    There was some talk last night about whether we are getting closer to any kind of “tipping point” in terms of dealing with this unfit president. I don’t see that yet becoming visible. But this gathering cadre of Republican Trump-denouncers is not trivial.

    And on balance, and even given all the uncertainties, I think that Flake’s becoming free to speak out is a net plus for the nation’s political health.

  • Andy Schmookler

    Another piece of the picture that is yet to be clarified, and that bears on whether the Flake story of yesterday is good news or bad news:

    Will the freed Jeff Flake vote any differently from the one who was continuing to hope to perpetuate his Senate career?

    It has been noted that Flake VOTED with Trumpian/GOP policies a high percentage of the time. How much of that was conviction, and how much a matter of protecting his political position?

    Will the tax cut measure be a good test case? The GOP tax plan, it appears, will add greatly to the national debt– all to give more money to the richest. Is Flake one of those people who sincerely cares about fiscal discipline (and not just when it’s Democrats who are controlling the allocation of resources)?

    The Rs are back in the position they were in with health care: they can only afford to lose two Republican Senators if the Democrats hold firm together.

    Will Flake, Corker, and/or McCain vote against a terrible tax bill, now that they are free to follow principle against their unprincipled Party, and use their remaining days in office to play for the history books?

    • “Will the freed Jeff Flake vote any differently from the one who was continuing to hope to perpetuate his Senate career?”

      Hours after Flake’s “great” speech, he proceeded to vote just like a right-wing Republican would, in the dead of night in favor of big banks and against consumers.