What to Make of Sitting Republican Senators Speaking Out Against Trump

Oct 27, 2017

Politicians of all stripes are reacting to the latest schism in the Republican Party. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake - an outspoken critic of President Trump - announced he won’t seek reelection next year. And in doing so, he became even more outspoken in his criticism of the President and what he believes Trump represents.

Flake joins a high-profile list of Republicans - including John McCain, former President George W. Bush, and outgoing Senator Bob Corker - who have all escalated their criticisms in recent days. But what’s the greater consequence of this latest debate?

Political analyst Charlie Sykes tells Lake Effect: "I think it's very significant. I think the fact that you have two sitting Republican United States Senators willing to call out a President of their own party in these terms is a dramatic moment. But, on the other hand, don't expect it to open the floodgates. This is an indication of how much Donald Trump has changed, or in my view corrupted, the Republican Party." 

Sykes responds to those who say that Flake's announcement this week was a "nod to the inevitable" that Flake wasn't going to win re-election. He says that Flake's political difficulties stem from his earlier decision to write the book Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.

"I think [the criticism that he wouldn't be re-elected anyways] misses the point," says Sykes. "Jeff Flake, as a solid conservative, was going to lose because he spoke out against Donald Trump, because he wrote that particular book. But Jeff Flake not that long ago would have been right there mainstream in the conservative movement."

Sykes also has an assessment of the two senators' message. "What Senators Corker and Flake are doing is they're saying something beyond whether or not [Trump] is a real conservative or not a real conservative. They're saying that he poses a threat to our culture, to our democratic norms."