Republic: Flake's exit strengthens Trump’s GOP

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Arizona Republic reported that the Republican Party dynamics that prompted U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s exit from the 2018 race, which he announced in dramatic fashion Tuesday, were foreshadowed by some of his allies as they took measure of the electorate last month.

Flake, R-Ariz., one of President Trump's most visible antagonists, conceded he could not win his primary in the current Republican climate without compromising his integrity.

Despite agreeing with Trump in many instances, Flake acknowledged that their stark differences on issues such as free trade and immigration likely would brand the senator as insufficiently loyal to Trump.

Flake had even written a book, "Conscience of a Conservative," in which he argued for a return to a more civil politics and the principles that marked the GOP during the Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan years. Flake's argument largely fell on deaf ears among Trump supporters, who dismissed it as an attack on Trump.

Former Rep. Jim Kolbe, a moderate-to-liberal Republican who represented the Tucson area in Congress, said the party's changing priorities under Trump have caused it to lose its "bearings."

With the pending retirements of Flake and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who also has sparred with the president, Trump's takeover of the GOP seems to be accelerating, even if its policy aims are not always clear.

"It's almost, in my reading of it, a personality cult," said David Berman, an Arizona State University professor emeritus of political science and senior research fellow at Morrison Institute for Public Policy. "What does the 'Trump Party' mean other than doing what Trump wants to do? It's a follow-the-leader kind of thing."

Steve Bannon, Trump's controversial former White House strategist, is trying to accelerate the transition, mobilizing an "open revolt" against establishment Republican Senate incumbents.

READ: Trump solidifies his grip on GOP with the exits of Flake, Corker