(RNS) — On Tuesday (Oct. 24), Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona denounced President Trump's administration from the Senate floor, saying that he refused to be "complicit" with the behavior of a president he described as "mercurial" and prone to "reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons."
[Read the full text of Sen. Flake's speech here.]
Several senators in attendance gave Flake a standing ovation, including fellow Arizonan John McCain and Tennessee's Bob Corker, both outspoken critics of Trump. Others in the Senate were upset by the fact that Flake also announced that he will not run for re-election next year, including Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
"When someone as good and decent a person as Jeff Flake does not think he can continue in the body (of the Senate), it's a very tragic day for the institution," Kaine told CNN.
As someone who often votes with the other party, I doubt I have much in common politically with Sen. Flake, who has described himself as a traditional conservative.
As a fellow Mormon, though, I'd like to buy that man a cup of not-coffee.
I'm proud that someone of my faith had the moral courage to stand up to a dangerous and narcissistic president who seems hell-bent on undermining many of the basic democratic institutions Americans ought to hold dear.
Flake's speech is filled with old-fashioned words and concepts that still mean something to our Mormon people.
Things like duty and conscience and moral authority.
Things like real strength coming from our most cherished values, and not from attacking the weak.
I was particularly struck by this part:
It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?
As a Mormon, I've found it disheartening that about half of Latter-day Saints in the U.S. did vote for Donald Trump a year ago; exit polls ranged from between 45 percent and 60 percent, depending on the geographic area. And it is profoundly upsetting that there are even now Mormons who defend the president's ongoing incompetence, ignorance and bullying behavior.
On the other hand, Mormons were among the first in the GOP to sound the alarms about Trump.
Mitt Romney called him out publicly, even after he became the party's nominee, because there were bigger issues at stake than party loyalty.
The Mormon-owned Deseret News spoke out against him a month before the election, saying he should resign his candidacy.
And now Flake has publicly denounced a sitting president from his own party, possibly at the cost of his own political career. There are some principles, Flake suggested, that override the individual — a lesson someone like Donald Trump will never understand.
In retrospect, the Deseret News' words from last October seem eerily prophetic, so I will close with them.
"For 80 years, the Deseret News has not entered into the troubled waters of presidential endorsement. We are neutral on matters of partisan politics. We do, however, feel a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation.
Accordingly, today we call on Donald Trump to step down from his pursuit of the American presidency.
In democratic elections, ideas have consequences, leadership matters and character counts.
The belief that the party and the platform matter more than the character of the candidate ignores the wisdom of the ages that, “when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2)
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