Flake’s departure allows the likes of Stephen K. Bannon to play kingmaker, choosing the Roy Moore of Arizona, if you will. The race was already touch and go with Flake in the race; now it seems like a bright pickup opportunity for Democrats.
The message to the GOP and the rest of the country is sobering. If you are going to speak out, as Flake did in a blistering book criticizing Trump, and remain loyal to principles like free trade, immigration and fiscal sobriety, there is no place for you in Trump’s GOP. Moreover, remaining in Trump’s GOP means tolerating, if not enabling, Trump’s noxious mix of dishonesty, bullying, protectionism and racism. It is not a party that tolerates questioning of Trump — or, apparently, our generals. It is not a party that defends the First Amendment or the independence of the courts.
What remains to be seen is whether Flake’s departure sets off a wave of retirements in both the House and Senate. If others follow him and moderates such as Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), the GOP Senate and House majorities will be imperiled; the rump that remains will be crazier and less competent than the GOP Congress presently is.
Perhaps Flake, freed from the obligation to seek reelection, will go “rogue,” as it were, with Corker to blast the president’s rhetoric and block irresponsible legislation. Unfortunately, for careerists in the party, the result may be greater subservience to Trump, less inclination to exercise oversight and more enabling of his xenophobia. That sort of Republican Party will have no appeal for many Americans who considered themselves to be Republicans in good standing.
Who knows — Corker-Flake in 2020? Stranger things have happened.