Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake Is a Casualty of Collectivist Conflict

Temperamentally more than ideologically, the Jeff Flakes of the world do not fit into a politics increasingly marked by collectivist reaction.


Stop what you're doing right now, and look at the political chatter in your Twitter feed. I would put chances near 100 percent that you will soon see examples of both right-of-center trolling, which I'll loosely define here as saying something designed specifically to irritate and/or outrage the sensibilities of the dominant media/entertainment/Democratic culture; and also left-of-center boundary-drawing, in which a moralist will define virtue or acceptability in such a way that a right-of-center person of interest will inevitably find himself on the outside looking in.

I found these two examples within 60 seconds:

To answer the wags' questions (hey, they're just asking 'em!), in order: 1) Transmitting highly classified military secrets in wartime to a murderously expansionist world power while also recruiting other Americans for espionage is indeed considerably worse than whatever Hillary Clinton is being accused of. And 2) here's a not-hard-to-find CBS News headline: "Jeff Flake says Republicans should speak out on Roy Moore's past comments."

But reality-checking such arguments kinda misses the point of 2017 politics. The subtext of these tweets is more important than the text. It is Look at those arrogant hypocrites and He's not one of us. Responses like mine above can be thus answered with the classic, Musta struck a nerve!

Once you see major-party political discourse as largely a mutually reinforcing game of Trolls vs. Velvet Ropers, you can't unsee. It's "deplorables" vs. the "politically correct"; a president who crows that "46% OF PEOPLE BELIEVE MAJOR NATIONAL NEWS ORGS FABRICATE STORIES ABOUT ME," and media people who almost dutifully overreact with statements like: "That poll result…is perhaps the saddest moment in this tragic administration's brief and terrible history." It's Roy Moore's 5,000-pound Ten Commandments courthouse sculpture (one of the heaviest acts of trolling this century) vs. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's exclusionary assertion that "extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay" have "no place" in his state.

The Velvet Rope Left is forever policing the boundary between permissible and disqualifying behavior, language, and political positions (luckily for the likes of Bill Maher, those who are good on the latter are granted leeway on the former, particularly when the usually disqualifying language is used against people with bad politics). The Troll Right is forever treating that boundary like an arbitrage opportunity for selling books at CPAC.

(Both trolling and boundary-drawing are in bountiful supply outside the two-party scrum as well, and very much so within libertarianism, but I'll set that aside for a future post.)

Like all good tragedies, the activity of both camps contains some logic and even a splash of righteousness. Trolls were absolutely correct to criticize the way Mitt Romney was unfairly declared ungood for having binders full of women and shaggy dog/car stories. Velvet Ropers, meanwhile, were certainly quicker to detect some collective demonization of minorities lurking within the Tea Party movement than I was.

But that has always been the upside in organized political hatreds, in having "the right enemies"—you can get to unpleasant truths quicker than those who are still laboriously sifting through the facts. Less happily (at least for those still troubled by conscience), you will also quickly pile up falsehoods, while dismissing the individualism of whole swaths of humanity. "Why bother with the never ending, genuinely hopeless search for truth," Václav Havel wrote in a classic 1985 essay, "when a truth can be had so readily, all at once"?

Though the in-group/out-group policework is often attached in the moment to ideology (if rarely with the acknowledgement that the standards of such are constantly shifting), the style at heart ultimately has more to do with temperament. Jeff Flake is not philosophically very far removed from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), but one's a bombthrower and the other drinks milk. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is in alignment with Flake about the long-term debt crisis and the necessity for new Authorizations for Use of Military Force, but has no qualms backing a sharia-fearing paranoiac as long as he wears the letter "R." Flake, on the other hand, sent words of encouragement to his own potential Democratic opponent after Arizonans starting hurling anti-Muslim invective in her general direction.

Velvet Ropers, meanwhile, have had a busy 10 days excoriating anyone left of center insufficiently hostile to anti-Trump Republicans such as Flake, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and George W. Bush. This Ring of Fire Network headline gets straight to the language-policing point: "Stop Praising Horrible Republicans Just Because They Don't Like Trump." It's as if the anti-Trump left is trying to prove the pro-Trump right's point: They will hate us no matter what we do.

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The Troll Right in 2016 finally crossed from media success (what is Fox News Channel's "Fair and Balanced" slogan if not one of modern media history's most clever trolls?) to political muscle within the GOP. Ann Coulter went from writing bestselling troll jobs like Treason and Demonic to reportedly helping craft Donald Trump's first big policy white paper. The 32-year-old who helped push through the administration's historically restrictive new refugee policy reportedly got his political start in high school criticizing Latinos for speaking Spanish and noting their comparative academic deficiencies. The sitting president of the United States was until recently the country's biggest birther.

That just ain't Jeff Flake's style. He criticized birtherism early and often, calling it "ridiculous" and "unfortunate." He said in June 2016 that Trump "ought to apologize" for his statement that the "Mexican heritage" of Federal Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel is "an inherent conflict of interest." He was disgusted by the Access Hollywood tape. Some of this lines up with Flake's real policy differences with Trumpism, such as on immigration, trade, and debt; some of it speaks to his temperamental tendency to criticize his own political team when it goes astray.

But the real dividing line separating Jeff Flake not only from the ascendant Trump/Steve Bannon/populist wing of the Republican Party, but from the purity police in the Democratic Party, may be contained in this sentence last week from George W. Bush: "Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions—forgetting the image of God we should see in each other." Even if Bush had been the perfect messenger—and he most definitely is not—that sentiment these days is in full retreat. Collectivist conflict, in all its belligerent stupidity, is the rule, not the exception. The best that some of us on the sidelines can hope for is that it be as pointless as possible.

I know, I know, Musta struck a nerve!

NEXT: Senate Votes to End CFPB Arbitration Ban, Trump Insists He Knew Dead Soldier's Name, Handwritten Einstein Note Sold For $1.5 Million: P.M. Links

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  1. look at the political chatter in your Twitter feed.

    Whatever you find there says more about you, and your choice of who/what to follow on Twitter, than it does about the modern American political climate.

    I follow Ice T. And Iowahawk. And Chuck Yeager. I find chuck’s one-word tweets refreshing.

    1. ICE T @FINALLEVEL Sep 20

      The Softest MFs talk the Most shit…. On the internet. #FACT

      ICE T @FINALLEVEL Sep 20

      Daily Game: Those who say, don’t know….. And those who know, don’t say.

      Looking at you, Dinesh

      1. Too bad, he used to do more than other pundits to at least *try* and state the other side’s position – now he’s too embittered, not that I blame him.

        1. You lie. Ice T has always been hard.

          1. Dinesh, not Mr. T., you dingbat.

            1. Soft MF’s say shit like “Dingbat”

        2. Well, being imprisoned for your political beliefs will do that to you.

    2. For some reason, I thought Chuck Yeager died about a decade ago. Glad to find out I was wrong.

      1. Apparently there is an internet connection in the Great Blue Yonder

  2. your Twitter feed

    That was your first mistake.

  3. Your girl lost, cuck.

    1. A cuck, a schmuck, and a dishonest fuck walked into a bar. The bartender said “Hey Matt, good to see you again!”

  4. Greg Seargent is retarded. So, I am not really sure you should be following him on Twitter and certainly shouldn’t be taking anything he says seriously.

  5. “”Stop what you’re doing right now, and look at the political chatter in your Twitter feed.””

    I am not shallow enough to have a twitter feed.

    1. I do, but I only follow Norm MacDonald.

      1. Does he post 7-decade-old jokes condensed into 140 characters?

        1. He live tweets sporting events mostly.

  6. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions?forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

    That is true Matt. I don’t think it is fair to judge the Senate much less the entire political class by someone who is as craven and lacking in principles as Jeff Flake. Go back and look at the things Flake said when he was a Rep in the House and compare it to what he said and did once in the Senate. Flake basically walked away from every position that caused people in Arizona to vote for him. Then when the state turned on him, he suddenly decided he just couldn’t run for re-election. Whatever. If the voters of Arizona were not dying to kick his sorry ass the curb, you better believe Flake would be running for re-election. What a phony.

    1. I can’t disagree with this. I have been tremendously disappointed with Flake for several years.

  7. “a sharia-fearing paranoiac”

    And that links to a Dalmia article about how Roy Moore wants to turn us into Saudi Arabia.

    So Rand Paul endorsed Dalmia, is that what you’re saying?

    1. It is more than a bit ironic to see an article talking about the evils of collective judgment, personal attack, and trolling linking to one of Dalmia’s articles.

  8. “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions?forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.” – G. W. Gush

    “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.” – G. W.’s Attorney General, Dec. 2001

  9. What a bunch of complete and total sanctimonious horseshit. Flake is a casualty of his own dishonesty. He’s another RINO who lied his way into office and knows Arizona was going to kick his ass out if he didn’t save them the trouble.

  10. It’s “deplorables” vs. the “politically correct”

    Figured that out all on your own, did ya?

    Yes, that’s the fight, and has been for a couple of years now. The Right is finally fighting back against the Left, over the protests of the Cucked Right, like Flake, who prefer to “nobly” lose eternally.

    The Left has weaponized compassion into a club to beat the Right into submission. “You’re mean and hateful. We hate you. Submit now, or I will call you mean again.”

    The Cucked Right can’t appease and beg for forgiveness fast enough, while the rest of the Right has recognized this strategy as the club that has beaten the Right into submission for a century, and will have no more of it. Deplorable is now a badge of honor. Decades ago a go to line with my libertarian friends in grad school was cackling “you’re so hateful!” We were ahead of our time.

    The natural defense against weaponizing compassion is reveling in sadism. They asked for it. They got it. The Left defects from and exploits all trust relationships in society. The Cucked Right has yet to realize that upholding civilization requires fighting back and punishing those who defect from the principles that make it possible. They think maintaining your side of a cease fire while the enemy shoots you is upholding the a just peace, instead of *betraying* it. There is no peace while the enemy shoots at you, and your refusal to fight back only ensures that they will never stop.

    1. That’s about the state of it. When the left was a touch less insane, I was more comfortable trying to take the high ground… But their shit has literally pushed things to the point of being an existential threat to this nation, and indeed all of the western world. Nowhere else in the world has ever even had anything remotely resembling freedom, so if the west falls it will be a new dark ages the likes of which the world has never seen.

  11. What is this twit thing everyone keeps screeching about?

    1. It’s a fad whose grave I hope to piss on after it dies.

      1. No, that’s unfair, it gives insight into what various people are thinking, and I use the term “thinking” loosely.

        1. Thank god for Twitter, what else would Journalists write about on a Thursday afternoon?

  12. Stop what you’re doing right now, and look at the political chatter in your Twitter feed.

    1. I don’t have a twatter feed.

    2. I don’t want a twatter feed.

    3. Clearly, you are out of your mind.

    1. Who inhabits Twitter? Mostly journalists. Twitter has done more to discredit the media than anything else in my lifetime. It gave these idiots the change to broadcast who they really were to the world in real time with no editor or producer standing in the way. And they have revealed themselves to be the complete shallow morons anyone paying attention thought they were.

      1. I’m old and crazy and it just isn’t my thing.

        1. I don’t blame you. It is not mine either. But I am glad journalists do. Their egos just can’t resist the temptation to tell the world their thoughts. That hasn’t been a good role for them.

  13. A Matt Welch article is like a cool breeze on a muggy day.

    1. It’s like cold ceramic on your balls* as you pee into the sink because this toilet of a world is broken beyond repair.


  14. Matt, I think your analysis of shit artists vs. boundary artists is spot on. Texas universities have this same dynamic. University of Texas thinks it’s the only school in the state, and Texas A&M responds by defining themselves by how much they hate UT. And as it just so happens, both find themselves on opposite sides of the culture war. Personally, I find the losers who smear feces on the clubhouse worse than the assholes who build the clubhouse, but both are unserious.

  15. Stop what you’re doing right now, and look at the political chatter in your Twitter feed.

    I have a twitter feed?

    1. That’s just a modern myth. Trolling goes right back to the Vikings. Whenever they landed at a place they were going to raid they’d chant

      Troll kalla mik
      y?varr m??ir drengr sk?r hafa
      kynsl?? m?s ellri bl?m
      v?r fretr yfir y?

  16. FINALLY! A Reason story that does not claim Flake is a libertarian!

  17. It’s strange who the velvet-ropers admit into their club without complaint.

    Did I say “strange”? I meant “unsurprising.” Republicans are evil, communists are idealists, etc.

  18. Here’s the thing a lot of libertarians don’t get: Much of life is collectivist. It’s natural human behavior. So everytime somebody criticizes a group as a group, they’re not wrong. That Mexican judge WAS biased, Trump just had the balls to say it! He was involved with La Raza shit for Christ’s sake!

    So while individualism needs to be taken into account in a big way, you can’t discount group behavior either or you’re missing 90% of the picture!

    1. Bah. Groups are for popular people.

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