The Arizona senator, who has been flagging in the polls as he continues to feud with Donald Trump, is the latest casualty in the internal war within the Republican Party. Speaking to the Arizona Republic, Flake blamed his dissatisfaction with politics on the nastiness of the Trump era. He said, “There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”
On August 23, the president tweeted, “Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!” Former Trump aide Steve Bannon had listed Flake as one of the GOP candidates he wanted to target with a primary challenge to make the Republican Party more in Trump’s image.
Flake feared that the only way he could fend off a primary challenge was by moving to the right on immigration. “Here’s the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take,” Flake explained to the Arizona Republic. “It would require me to believe in positions I don’t hold on such issues as trade and immigration and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
Flake thinks that the Trumpization of the GOP is temporary, arguing, “This spell will pass, but not by next year.”
But Flake’s own actions raise the natural question: Isn’t the Trump spell likely to last all the longer if anti-Trump Republicans retreat from politics?