Opinion: Fight From Within: The Senate Republicans Battling Trump

Senators Flake and McCain at a 2016 Summit in Arizona (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

It is a fact that some Senate Republicans have feuded with President Trump over some of his policy points recently.

Some examples that come to mind are Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., who both voted no on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill which President Trump was looking to establish as one of his first major policy successes.

With only a narrow lead in the Senate (52-48), it is important that the Republican party votes together. However, the rhetoric that Trump espouses has alienated some senators, leading many to become concerned with his leadership.

During a period of increased tensions with North Korea, Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that Trump’s comments towards North Korea could lead to an escalation of another world war.

This was not the first time that Corker has complained about Trump, previously he criticized his handling of the events in Charlottesville.

Most recently, Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., notably called out members of his own party, condemning them for continuing to support President Trump.

Complaining about the lack of decency and honesty in politics, he attacked President Trump’s behavior while claiming that those who do not speak out against him are complicit in his misconducts against democracy and the separation of powers.

One interesting wrinkle is that the three most outspoken senators against Trump – McCain, Corker, and Flake – most likely will not seek re-election.

Corker and Flake, whose terms expire at the end of 2018, have announced they will not seek re-election. McCain, who won a contentious election in 2016, is not expected to seek re-election in 2022.

This could hint at a wider trend that more Republicans are upset with Trump’s leadership, but refuse to speak out for fear of upsetting their base.

Senator Flake addressed this in his speech to the Senate, claiming that fears of alienating the base is an important but morally unjust reason for the continued silence and inaction by his fellow Republicans. Senator Flake’s words make me believe that it is possible that other senators are also discontent with the change in their party brought on by Donald Trump’s rise.

If it is true that there is a large portion of Republicans who disagree with their leadership, then the only right path for them would be to express their concerns.

For those who have already spoken out about the issues within their own party, their actions are extremely commendable.

It is a brave thing to stand up and say that your leaders are wrong, even though they may be doing it only because they no longer need to appeal to their base for reelection. This applies even more so to those who have consistently spoken against the new Republican leadership.

This does not mean that Flake’s call to action requires abandoning policy points on which they agree. Recently, Senate Republicans and President Trump met for a luncheon to discuss a new tax plan, a major goal of the party.

Instead, when it comes to matters of character, I would hope that all who find any actions distasteful or not aligned with the principles of democracy (and decency) voice their concerns.

It should not be a partisan issue to attempt to maintain a certain level of honesty and character in our government.

In a way, this is a means of escaping the increasing polarization of our national party system. Increasingly divisive behavior from both sides can be combatted by the renewed idea that representatives have a right to question their party, to question their leadership, and to question the choices that fellow party members make.

The party is not the overarching system that democracy is based on; instead, it is the people and the belief that their elected representatives will represent them and their interests to the best of their ability. That includes satisfying our democratic ideals and principles, and holding elected officials accountable to them regardless of party affiliation.

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