Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Stop cheering Jeff Flake

To echo what Atrios says:
2 Republican senators could flip control of the Senate. They won't, of course, but that's all it takes.
That's why Jeff Flake is so infuriating. He gives speech after speech condemning Trump, he "warns" Trump against doing things he does not like, but he never actually uses the powers of his office as leverage against the Administration he claims is a threat to American values he holds dear.

If Flake really means this stuff he could, for example, announce he will no longer vote for any of Trump's judicial nominees until Trump changes his behavior. That would mean for many nominees there would likely be a 50-50 tie, which would force the Vice President and every one of his Republican colleagues to stay in Washington every time one of those nominees came up for a vote. If Flake got one more Senate Republican to join him, The Trump/McConnell plan to pack the courts with conservative judges would come to a complete halt.

I understand that Flake himself probably wants the judiciary to have more conservative judges. But if he really thinks that Trump is a threat to American democracy and the rule of law, wouldn't saving American democracy be more important than getting another conservative judge on the bench? Besides, this is something he could use for leverage. Trump and McConnell (not to mention the rest of the GOP) really want to fill the federal judiciary with reactionaries and with the threat of a democratic takeover of the Senate looming, they are running out of time. Flake and his fellow rebels could probably get whatever they want in exchange for their confirmation vote. Flake +1 could get a Dream Act, he could stop family separation at the border, etc. But Flake never uses the power of his office to match the degree of concern he expresses in his rhetoric. The same goes for Senators Collins, McCain, Murkowski, and all the other GOP Senators who talk about being "troubled" by the President's extremism but don't do shit about it.

Senators are not op-ed columnist. Just writing essays and giving powerful speeches is their way to avoid using the powers of their office to make real change happen. Powerful talk is great when someone is otherwise powerless. But Senators are not powerless. If they are not using their powers, they must not be serious when they express alarm at the Administration.