When President Trump won the Republican nomination for President it was only the beginning of what would be a years long takeover of the conservative movement. Winning the Presidency in 2016 was a milestone as well, but the real battle to make the GOP more Trumpian would be fought in 2018.
Unfortunately for true small government believers, while the election is still a year away, it appears that the Trump faction is winning already. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake have both announced that they will not be running for reelection in 2018.
The moves are designed to publicize their disapproval of the direction the Republican party is taking under President Trump. Although, not running will only open those seats up for Trumpublican candidates and accelerate their takeover of the GOP.
Senator Flake’s decision not to run all but guarantees Trump supporter Kelli Ward’s nomination
After three decades in the Senate, a serious primary challenger emerged for John McCain in 2016. The Republican primary that year was the most competitive that McCain had ever seen and he barely made it through with only 51 percent of the vote, his lowest result ever.
McCain’s main competitor was Kelli Ward who managed to get 39 percent of the vote in the four-way primary.
Shortly after her narrow defeat, Ward announced she would be running for Senate again in 2018 to challenge Jeff Flake. With one close defeat under her belt and polls showing her as the clear frontrunner in the race – even before Jeff Flake dropped out – it’s all but certain she has the Republican nomination wrapped up.
This is a major problem for conservatives that believe in free markets. Economic nationalist Steve Bannon has endorsed Kelli Ward which cements her alliance with the big government strain of Trumpublicanism. Ward has been a steadfast supporter of President Trump and refused to condemn any of his controversial statements.
If Kelli Ward manages to win the Republican nomination, it will move the Trumpian takeover of the Republican party forward – even if she is unsuccessful in the general election.
The path is clear for a Trumpian candidate in Tennessee now that Sen. Corker has bowed out
Unlike in Arizona, where the Republican primary is all but decided, there are several pro-Trump candidates in the mix.
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and former Congressman Stephen Fincher have declared they will run for Senate. They’re currently competing to see which one can be the most supportive of the President. Blackburn even went so far as to defend the President’s incessant tweeting regarding the NFL.
Steve Bannon hasn’t made an official endorsement yet, but Breitbart is already promoting State Senator Mark Green as a potential challenger. As with Arizona, no traditional conservatives have declared their intentions to run yet.
Senator Corker and Senator Flake’s decisions will accomplish the opposite of what they want
Until now, the good senators from Tennessee and Arizona were bulwarks against the invading Trumpian horde. Their commitment to free market principles, and rejection of economic nationalism, is a needed defense of the traditional Republican party platform.
Senators Corker’s and Flake’s refusal to sit idly by and tacitly approve of the vulgar tweets spoke to their character.
Deciding not to run for reelection signals their acceptance of defeat. Despite their eloquent statements, actions speak louder than words. Declining to run for reelection signals their surrender to the Trumpian strain that is haphazardly rewriting the principles of the Republican Party.
Every other Republican senator and representative will see Corker’s and Flake’s decisions as confirmation that to cross the president is political suicide. Republican politicians won’t dare to criticize the President lest they incur his wrath.
Moreover, Trump supporters are emboldened by the news to challenge even more elected Republicans. There will be a surge in 2018 regardless, but the news that Corker and Flake aren’t running will only increase the number of Trumpian primary challengers.
Instead of sending President Trump a message that the Republican party won’t be so easily taken over, Senator Corker and Senator Flake are signaling the opposite. Their decisions not to run for reelection tell Republicans everywhere not to criticize Trumpism, and not to defend classical Republican principles and values.
Each man should reconsider that before it’s too late for the Grand Old Party.
(Photo of Donald Trump at 2016 Roast and Ride, hosted by Sen. Joni Ernst by Max Goldberg)