A really good speech doesn’t have a long lifespan. It’s like a firework. It delights and thrills for a few moments, and while all of the excitement is hot and flying through the air, we feel like we’re transported temporarily to a different place. A different possibility. But then the speech is done, and all we have is the memory. And the memory doesn’t do it justice.
Well, we have the internet now, so we can rewatch good speeches whenever we want. So watch this one. Watch it, and then let’s talk about Jeff Flake.
But as much as he’s been verbally critical of Trump, he hasn’t really backed that up with action. Even when he showed up on Colbert he stated how he would vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, in line with Trump’s desires.
In fact, his whole voting record has been fairly consistently in line with Trump.
To be fair, the Republican party has been usurped by people that aren’t true conservatives. From what I’ve read about Flake, he’s been voting his conscience. It just looks like he’s voting with Trump.
I’ve been trying to think of an analogy. Here’s the best I can come up with tonight.
Imagine a raging fire. The fire is spreading, threatening the livelihood of a small town.
Two schools of thought form on how to deal with the crisis. The first group suggests that the town should pool all their resources and bring as much water to the fire as possible and try to save the town. There’s risk. It could wind up costing a lot of money. But if they can put out the fire, the town will be saved, and everyone will still have a home.
The second group has a different idea. They think the risk to life is too great, and it would be better to let the fire reach the edge of the town. When those houses on the edge start burning, they can topple the homes, trapping the fire so that it can’t spread to the rest of the town. It would risk fewer lives, have a greater chance of stopping the fire from taking the whole town, but a few people (those home owners) are going to suffer.
Depending on your values, the first option might look better to you. Or maybe the second option. It’s hard to say. Doing nothing would be the worst thing, because everyone loses.
I think Flake falls into that second group. He’d take the safest route. Maybe he fears that if the town loses all of its resources trying to put out the fire, the town is lost regardless. Voting his conscience, he’d say trap the fire at the expense of a few houses.
Now imagine a third group gets involved. They have an interest in building golf courses at the edge of the town, and they were wanting to buy the properties that are about to be burned. This fire is the perfect opportunity. They swoop in and loudly support the second group. They shout it like it was their idea. Heck, some of them might even claim that it was their idea.
That third group is Trump, the Tea Party, Bannon… all of the opportunists that have swarmed in and taken over the Republican party. They make it look like they’re voicing support for a fair and reasonable position, but they’re just in it for themselves. They don’t care if people get hurt. They’re don’t care about the future. They want the fast buck, the quick profit, the immediate satisfaction.
And you know what? Those assholes probably started the fire in the first place.
Anyway, let’s get back to Flake.
Flake’s speech is amazing, right up to the point where he says he’s no longer running for office. Because unfortunately, by this time next week, no one’s going to remember his speech. They’re just going to list his name with Corker’s. One more conservative Republican driven out by Trump and his ilk.
If Flake wanted to end his speech in a more memorable way, he should have called for Impeachment. Everything leading up to that point supported that position.
Instead, he’s quitting. He’s giving up his position of power. He’s leaving the place where he has a voice and can make a difference and truly vote his conscience.
If this were still analogy land, it is the equivalent of someone from Group 2 saying, “You know what? I don’t like what these other people are doing. So I’m going to move to another town where it’s not my problem. BYE!”
What he should have done was stay in the game. After the houses came crashing down and the fire was stopped, he should have found ways to compromise with Group 1 so that the homes could be rebuilt, and the opportunists prevented from rebuilding on the burned down homes of those hurt worst by the fire.
I listened to the speech. It was good. Flake told the President off, and I wish more Republicans would do the same. But the follow through is terrible, and ultimately overshadows the message. If that’s his protest, it is weak. I don’t think he was going to retain his seat, anyway. Which makes not running a bit of an empty gesture.
The Left are going to be upset with Flake because they don’t know if they’ll be able to beat whoever runs as the Republican for his seat next. The Right… probably doesn’t care.
What we need instead of words and empty gestures are principled actions. We need better follow through. We need to call the opportunists on their bullshit, take them out of positions of power, and never let them back in again.