Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake warns GOP about ‘cult of president’s personality’

Nov 7, 2018, 2:30 PM
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)...
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

PHOENIX – A day after the midterm election – and before he knew who would be succeeding him — Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona cautioned his party that it needs to believe in something “beyond the current cult of the president’s personality.”

Flake, who didn’t run for re-election after one term in the Senate and has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, expressed his views Wednesday in a Washington Post opinion piece.

While election officials in Arizona were still totaling up the votes for Republican candidate Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in a race that was too close to call on Election Day, Flake reminisced about how he came of age as a conservative in the era of Ronald Reagan.

“To be a conservative — to be a Republican — was to sign on to a movement rich in ideas to build the United States for a new century,” he wrote.

Despite his affection for Reagan, Flake said his devotion to conservative principles went beyond the party leader.

“It was about pursuing a cause, as John McCain so effectively articulated, greater than one’s self-interest,” he wrote.

He then contrasted Reagan’s GOP to a Trump-led party that “scares you into supporting it.”

“Will we embrace the dystopian view of the country that the president has adopted — and double down on the fearmongering — or will we salvage our principles, assume a more sane and humane view of our ideological opponents, and assert a more optimistic vision?” he wrote.

Flake, who won seven races for the U.S. House or Senate since 2000, noted that it was “a bit odd for me” to be a “spectator rather than a participant” in the election.

Given the current political climate, however, he wrote, “I was content to sit this one out.”

He didn’t express disappointment that his party lost control of the House while holding the Senate and suggested the split would be good for the country.

“We are under divided government again, the type of government that, in my opinion, usually delivers the best results, because it forces the parties to work together,” he wrote.

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Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake warns GOP about ‘cult of president’s personality’