This column by ACRU Senior Fellow and Policy Board member J. Kenneth Blackwell was published October 28, 2017 by Townhall.
The mainstream media discovered Republican statesmen. Men of principle willing to sacrifice their careers to do what is right. Men of stature willing to take on the president.
They are Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee. They got their extra 15 minutes of fame while being lionized by Democrats. Like heroes of ancient myth, Flake and Corker sought to hold the barbarians back from Washington’s gates. “Enough!”, shouted Flake as he defended the sacred status quo.
The nation’s capital long has showcased the phenomenon of “growing in office.” A conservative gets elected. Then he embarrasses himself by ignoring the ways of Washington and calling for cuts in spending and taxes, getting tough on crime, and strengthening the military.
But after patient guidance from his betters, the conservative legislator begins to “grow.” Soon he advocates hiking budgets, appeasing enemies, and criticizing conservatives. All the while being sympathetically interviewed and profiled by the press. If only every Republican learned from his mistakes in this way!
Like Senators Flake and Corker. Both were elected as conservatives in conservative states.
Despite initially lofty expectations, neither had a particularly distinguished career. At least Corker achieved a degree of leadership, chairing the Foreign Relations Committee. Beyond that, neither has a particularly impressive list of legislative achievements. Neither has done anything to change the bipartisan system rigged against the American people.
It is hardly surprising that President Trump is more popular than them in their own states. Which also makes it unsurprising that neither plans to run for reelection.
But listen to the media and you’d believe Corker and Flake were historical giants — think Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Men of courage and vision, Flake and Corker abandoned ambition to stand for what is right.
Which in mainstream media parlance means they criticized President Donald Trump. No one begrudges them their opinion. America is, as they say, a “free country.” Even if it seems to grow less so most every day.
Indeed, that’s why it would be more productive if they directed their ire at Democrats and Republicans who act like Democrats. Donald Trump didn’t come up with Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” He didn’t give us the Nixon regulatory surge. It was Jimmy Carter who whined about “malaise” afflicting America and yielded to a Soviet Union on the march.
Donald Trump didn’t hike taxes and dishonor the Oval Office like Bill Clinton. And it was Barack Obama who turned Americans’ health over to Washington and retreated from the world. Instead, the president is trying to fix these problems and more.
But pointing that out would not win establishment acclaim. Republicans criticizing liberals, ho-hum. Republicans criticizing conservatives, Stop the Presses! And Corker and Flake know that.
Their careers sputtered out. Corker’s future looked unpromising. Flake’s career appeared over. The latter’s approval rating is abysmal, 18 percent, and he badly trailed his leading primary opponent, Kelli Ward.
Instead of drawing the opposition of the best and the brightest, the president attracted criticism from the least and the whiniest. As he tweeted: “The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!”
Maybe that’s unfair. But the two dissatisfied senators so far are all talk, no action.
There’s a simple way to demonstrate the truth. Corker and Flake should run for reelection and against the president. Let’s see what happens. I’ll admit that I’m biased, but I wouldn’t put my money on them!
Corker’s and Flake’s retreat shows why Republicans so often lose even though the American people are conservative. Democrats want to win. And they put everything else aside to do so.
In contrast, Republicans form circular firing squads. Opposed by Democrats, liberals, journalists, labor unions, academics, assorted interest groups, and lots of folks on the federal payroll, Republicans fight among themselves. “I will not be complicit,” declared Flake. But choosing the liberal establishment over the president makes the senator part of what’s been happening.
President Trump surprised everyone by getting elected. With the usual suspects opposing him, Corker and Flake could have rallied around the president. Instead, they are targeting him.
The media is treating Flake and Corker like heroic martyrs. But after next year’s election they will be forgotten. In contrast, the American people will remember the president who fought for them. And the legislators who backed him.