Sen. Jeff Flake announced last week he was joining the resistance against President Trump.
On Monday, Politico published an excerpt from the Arizona Republican’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” that called for Congress to stop Trump’s agenda. Additionally, Flake castigated his own party for making political discourse in the country so toxic, and his fellow conservatives for not standing up for civil discourse.
The senator garnered several headlines for coming out against a Republican president so fervently, and the coverage of it was certainly friendly to Flake. What more could journalists want than a Republican calling out his party for birtherism in the summer of 2017?
But Flake isn’t just about opposing Trump — he wants the GOP to follow an entirely different political path. One that is very, very civil with the opposing side. Besides that, it’s not much different from what prominent Republicans were offering before Trump came to dominate the party.
One of the issues the Arizona senator highlights in his new work is immigration — and his position on it is very much in opposition to Trump’s. Flake wants to give nearly all illegal immigrants a path to legal status and would like to increase the number of newcomers America takes in every year.
He believes that this is the only path forward for the GOP in a country with rapidly shifting demographics.
The same week Flake was promoting his book to glowing coverage, Trump announced his support for legislation to reduce legal immigration to the United States — pretty much the opposite of what the rebellious senator wants.
The Arizonan was at the forefront of denouncing the White House’s proposal for not being “the right direction for our economy.”
It is a stunning testament to the shift within the Republican party for its president to put his weight behind immigration restriction — and the measure having a legitimate chance of passing.
Just a few years ago, Flake’s position was the more dominant one in the party. The Arizonan was one of the eight senators who crafted the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill that would have given a path to citizenship to illegal aliens and would have significantly increased legal immigration.
That bill passed the Senate with the votes of several Republicans, and likely only died in the House due to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor losing his seat to immigration hawk Dave Brat in 2014.
Cantor’s defeat marks the turning point in fortunes for the immigration booster crowd, as well as a foreshadowing of the Republican primary that previously crowned Trump as the nominee.
But Republicans should have always been aware of the divergence within their own party ranks on immigration. While some pundits smugly deploy polls showing Republicans in favor of legal status for illegal aliens when only given the other option of mass deportation, the overwhelming majority of GOP-leaning voters have a negative view of mass immigration and want it reduced.
The same month that Trump announced his candidacy for president, a Pew Research poll found that 63 percent of Republicans view immigrants as a “burden” who take away jobs from citizens and strain resources. Funny enough, this survey was one of the many showing a majority of Republicans “support” amnesty.
Another Pew poll released the same year found 67 percent of Republicans wanted immigration reduced. Only seven percent of respondents wanted it increased. So only a tiny fraction of the GOP base supports Flake and the old GOP establishment’s view on the issue.
The limited government/unlimited immigration platform Flake argues for is often pushed because it will help attract minorities to the GOP. But there is no real evidence to support the view that Guatemalan immigrants will instantly want privatized health care if only Republicans boost immigration.
In fact, polling shows that 75 percent of Hispanics prefer big government over small government — a margin that is much higher than the rest of the population. Some in these communities may appreciate Flake and other Republicans who pass amnesty, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to support slashing Medicare.
All this immigration fawning may do is alienate reliable Republican voters — which Flake may be OK with. Right before the Republican National Convention last year, the senator said that those who want a “Muslim ban” or criticize immigrants need to be purged from the party. He cited the need for electoral viability for the mass purge. (RELATED: Republican Senator: The GOP MUST Purge Trump Supporters)
It’s not clear how Republicans can win elections when they declare two-thirds of their voters racist, however.
But maybe the point is not to actually win anything. Instead, it’s all about maintaining respectability. Flake earned plenty of friendly coverage just for criticizing Trump, and any Republican can expect the same when they push for unrestricted immigration. They can become a “good Republican” in the eyes of liberals.
The dubious respect they earn for immigration boosterism also indulges the GOP elite’s fantasy of making contemporary politics more civil and solely focused on fiscal matters. Flake and his ilk have no interest in fighting a culture war — they just want tax cuts and the facade that America is the same country it was in the 1950s.
They want to believe Democrats will act in good faith and hope bipartisan “comprehensive immigration reform” will be the first step to a much nicer politics.
The problem is that Republican voters don’t seem willing to go along with this. Many of them feel like strangers in the country due to the dramatic changes that have recently occurred in America. They feel that there is a culture war that has drafted them without their consent. They want their politicians to engage in this combat and represent their interests.
Democrats understand that the culture war going on and continually find opportunities to engage it on behalf of their base. It’s why they turned minor issues such as transgenders in the military into major civil rights causes. It plays well for them.
Democrats also never apologize or recognize for their excesses. After a crazed leftist opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing baseball in June, Democrats agreed that they need to be more civil — before blaming Republicans and Trump for why they were targeted for assassination. (RELATED: Republicans Delude Themselves With Demands For More Civility)
And it took less than a week after pledging to be more civil. for Democratic lawmakers to go back to saying the GOP’s Obamacare repeal was going to murder thousands of people.
Flake hopes that civility will overcome this conflict, but he is sorely mistaken. He may not be interested in the culture war, but it’s interested in him and his voters.