By: Nate Sikora – Staff Writer
President Trump continued his unconventional style of politics by publicly attacking Sen. Jeff Flake (Ari.),an incumbent Republican up for re-election in 2018, on Twitter and to Flake’s face Wednesday.
Traditionally, it is a large responsibility for a president to aid his or her party’s incumbents during election season to retain or gain the majority in Congress with things like strategic communication and fundraising.
In the age of Trump, however, tradition is meaningless.
So, when Flake refused to endorse Trump and then criticized some of Trump’s decisions, especially on healthcare, Trump wants to do what he’s always done: fire him.
The culture of job insecurity Trump transported to Washington makes people who actually have public sector experience vulnerable to replacement by unqualified Trumpsters who want to merely disrupt the system and not help solve problems. Jeff Flake, although his politics actually closely mirror those of Trump, has almost two decades of government experience as an elected official.
Whether he has used his tenure for good is another question, but having institutional knowledge of the workings of government is crucial. One piece of knowledge Trump does not know, and will learn come time, is that an elected official is the punching bag of anything and everything that happens in his or her office.
Knowing that dynamic, in combination with the continual critiques and jabs the media and constituents throw at them (including writers like myself), one cannot help but have some level of sympathy for elected officials.
The media’s infatuation with Trump’s reality show of an administration enhances Trump’s ability to cause drama and infighting. It is always “oh boy, what did he tweet now” on a constant 24-hour cycle. So when people like Jeff Flake catch flake from the boss man, the media is there to make it 10 times worse.
The public sector, specifically legislative politics, presents a unique style of employment. Privacy is nonexistent, and a great deal of your authority rests on your reputation. The last thing Flake wants to do is get “Eric Cantor-ed” in a primary to end his political career because Trump bashed him on Twitter.
The Flake situation is a unique circumstance. The leader of your own party implied that you should lose your job even though you still voted for his bill when judgement day came. In Trump’s D.C., loyalty is worth nothing. For a longtime public servant like Flake, Trump essentially came out of nowhere and threatened his hard fought political career over Twitter within a matter of months.
Of course, incumbents must be challenged and questioned if they desire to keep their job another two or six years; however, in terms of the focus Flake has received nationally and how a consensus is building that he is the most vulnerable candidate in the country, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy. Why not other senators who actually voted against his bills?
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Adding insult to injury, Trump is conspiring with other Arizona republicans– the state Secretary of State and the state GOP Chairman– to primary Flake in 2018. One can understand friendly competition within the party, but when the president meets with your potential primary opponents instead of you when he visits your state, that spells trouble. Although Flake is taking the hard route to re-election, he seems confident he can handle the heat from Trump’s base.
“If I wanted an easier path through the primary, then I would line up more with where the president is,” said Flake at a town hall meeting in Arizona Tuesday. “But I think if you’re an elected official, you’ve got to do what you know what’s right. It’ll be a tougher path than I could have had, would have had, but I think I’ll get there.”
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It is an interesting time to have the conscience of a conservative, and Flake is facing unfortunate consequences for having one. At the end of the day, it is up to the people of Arizona, not Trump, to decide whether Flake makes it out of 2018 alive. With Senate Republicans holding only a two seat majority, currently, the 2018 Arizona senate race will be a focal point in the near future.
Photos Courtesy of twitter.com and time.com