‘It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”
That is the call Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake made Tuesday during a historic speech on the floor of the Senate. Although he didn’t mention President Trump by name, it is clear who he believes to be unacceptable.
His words — an impassioned plea for a return to comity and respect for our core values — have so far fallen on deaf ears in Congress. There is no line of Republican officials standing behind him. There are no obvious supporters of the president’s other critics in the Senate, most notably Sen. John McCain and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.
At least not publicly.
Flake’s speech was directed at his fellow legislators, but it applies even more strongly to the president’s supporters, those who voted for him and must now share the blame for his continued disregard for morality, honesty and decency.
But just as Trump voters bear responsibility, so, too, do they represent the best hope of reining in the president’s worst impulses, however slim that hope may be. Their continued backing — with 80 percent approval among Republicans — is what makes cowards of elected officials. It is what is driving principled conservatives such as Flake and Corker from the Senate.
The president’s supporters must recognize his failings and, in turn, back legislators who can stand up to him.
Most Trump voters share very little with the president. They do not hold racist or misogynist views. They are not abusive bullies or self-aggrandizers. They can accept when they’ve made a mistake and attempt to correct it. They care about a united America, not a divided nation torn apart by our differences.
Trump voters are often maligned, their views conflated with those of the president, yet many of them were just looking for a change or could not bring themselves to support Hillary Clinton. The constant, and mostly earned, attacks against the president have hardened their resolve, but they should take a step back and listen to Flake.
“With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.”
Or at least we should.
Continued support of Trump is a continued endorsement, even if tacit, of who he is and what he stands for — which is not for traditional conservative or libertarian ideals. What he stands for is a winner-take-all mentality. A debasement of our nation, as Sen. Corker said. A governing philosophy of anger and resentment, as Sen. Flake stated.
And make no mistake, resentment and anger exist on the other side, too, and they are growing. The president’s words and actions are pushing Democrats further to the left and radicalizing those who formerly clung to the center. And the way of American politics means that Democrats will have their chance to govern soon enough.
Hardened, uncompromising and dogmatic representatives on either side will succeed only in giving us gridlock or forcing extreme views upon us that will then be counteracted with more extremism in return. That is not the American way. Our country cannot be governed as a seesaw.
We join in Flake’s hope that this fever will break, that to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties.
Right now, it is in the hands of Republican voters to put our politics on the road to recovery. When the time comes at the ballot box, when the choice is between an adherent of the president’s politics and a principled conservative, we plead with them to make the right decision.