by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Like other recent rhetorical attacks on Trump from former president George W. Bush and fellow Arizonan senator John McCain, Flake’s pointed criticisms of Trump’s character flaws and behavior failed to directly address the question that conservatives are going to have answer in the coming months and years as the liberal drumbeat for impeachment grows. How can Republicans simultaneously acquiesce to the liberal crusade to topple Trump while maintaining their integrity and advancing the conservative policy goals that can be achieved in the foreseeable future only via cooperation with the current administration?
If Flake, Bush, and McCain are now winning more cheers from Democrats than Republicans, it’s because none of them have an answer to that question. Trump’s character flaws are worth serious criticism, but the moral calculus we must resolve is twofold: Do Republicans wish to be morally complicit in Trump’s bad behavior? And are we so offended by him that we’re willing to let our anger sink our policy agenda? If the issue is saving conservatism from Trump, how does sacrificing conservative policy goals in order to register distaste for the president do anything but help liberals preserve and revive the Obama agenda?
Flake is right that Trump has helped drag American politics to new depths with his “reckless, outrageous, and undignified” behavior. When attacked, Trump counters with shockingly personal assaults on his foes; these and his “flagrant disregard for truth and decency” are deeply troubling. But Flake’s clear suggestion that Trump is a tangible threat to the future of the republic requires sober observers to separate atmospherics and personalities, however troubling they may be, from actual policy.