Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has taken bolder and more consequential steps to oppose this White House on substantive issues in one day than Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has all year. Yet, Paul has both a better working relationship with the president and better favorability among his constituents than the junior senator from Arizona.
The answer to this enigma lies in the word “substantive.” Rand is actually working to drain the Swamp and to promote proactive principled ideas on the issues of our time, while Flake was either part of the problem or was too busy selling books to engage in substantive policy-making.
This is where the media narrative of the binary “for Trump or against Trump” approach falls apart.
Jeff Flake has lamented constituents who view any opposition to Trump as an opposition of conservatism. While there is a kernel of truth to this concern – that too many people are willing to blindly champion problematic substance and style just because of the binary choice – that binary choice was created by people like Flake.
As I noted in a previous article, Flake’s entire career stands as a paradigm of the feckless and perfidious GOP – a cancer that has prompted the GOP base to embrace Trump, even when it sometimes comes along with side effects of political chemotherapy.
For many of us who have had long-standing principles with a proactive agenda to implement them, this false dichotomy of being either pro- or anti-Trump in a vacuum has been very frustrating. But while Jeff Flake has been the antecedent of this predicament, Rand Paul has shined as a blueprint for how to evacuate from this morass. Flake should take notes.
Flake has stood for nothing in his Senate career other than promoting the agenda of the Mexican government and standing up to Trump. Yet, ironically, even while standing up to Trump, he has failed to do so on issues that matter to conservatives — or in a meaningful way.
Rand Paul has taken a sledgehammer to Trump in a principled way that makes Flake’s entire brand seem pathetic. But because it’s been rooted in principles, Sen. Paul actually has a better relationship now with Trump and is moving him to the Right on some issues, despite their acrimonious start (both on the campaign trail and in office).
Just consider the following examples:
Thus, while some have spent the past year aimlessly kissing up to Trump with no regard for actual discernable policy outcomes, and others have spent their year promoting themselves as the anti-Trump with no regard for campaign promises, Rand Paul has shown a way out of this “binary” idolatry by focusing on principle and policy.
Where Trump is helpful, he backs him up; where Trump is an obstacle, he opposes him more vociferously than Flake; where Trump can be influenced, which is the case on many issues, Rand is willing to negotiate.
Why is it so hard for Sen. Flake to see a way to have his cake (criticize Trump’s policies) and eat it too (adhere to conservative principles)? This week presented the superlative opportunity for such a dynamic. As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Flake could have opposed the lobbyists, the establishment, and the Trump administration by fighting the expansion of the ethanol mandate. Yet … he only attacks Trump from the Left.
And therein lies the problem with Flake and his cheerleaders in the failed clickservative commentariat. They are the embodiment of what they accuse Trump worshippers of on a daily basis. It’s just that their idolatry is standing against Trump, even though they’ve never effectively stood for anything in their careers.
This is why Flake has been just as adamantly against Ted Cruz, even when he’s been the only way of stopping Trump (while still fighting the Washington establishment from a conservative vantage point). More than opposing Trump, Jeff Flake opposes the conservative base.
Both the success of Sen. Rand Paul’s policy stances in the Senate and the rejection of Trump’s endorsed candidate in Alabama by voters demonstrates that there is a way to remain principled, irrespective of what Trump is doing at a given moment.
Voters are starving for someone to actually take us in a new direction and can be made to understand that when Trump is keeping us in the ways of the Swamp, he should be rebuked. But when people like Jeff Flake are trying to preserve the ways of the Swamp, they do nothing but elevate Trump as the solution, for better or worse.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.