Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in 2018’s midterm race in a blistering Senate floor speech that blasted President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and blamed his leadership for the surprise decision.
Flake was facing an uphill primary challenge against Dr. Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who consistently outperformed Flake in the polls. One survey held in late August had Ward beating Flake by double digits in a race that is seen by many as a referendum on establishment Republicans.
However, Flake framed his decision to back away from the Senate as both an attack on Trump and a respectful gesture to term limits, noting that “these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely.”
“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our Democratic norms and ideals,” he said in a veiled swipe at the president. “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions… the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons.”
“None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal,” he continued.”
Flake went on to criticize Trump loyalists in no uncertain terms. “I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my part is unacceptable and suspect,” he said.
“The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”