Doesn’t he even want to see who the Democratic nominee is? Having President Joe Biden writing new crime bills with a Republican Senate is a little different from President Bernie Sanders passing Medicare for All with a Democratic Senate.
Not every bad political tectonic shift that lasts a generation or more comes from the right, Jeff.
“Are you willing to lose a cycle for the Republican Party because of the principles that you’re arguing?” the event’s moderator, ABC News correspondent John Donvan asked.
“Oh, yes. Yes. You sacrifice a generation. You think, ‘Man, we might get some policy goals in the next year or two’ — look at the long term. Look at the long term, at what you’re doing for the party, because people don’t want to be associated with it,” Flake said.
“So, to boil it down, it’s better for a Democrat to win in 2020 if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, than for Donald Trump to win?” Donvan asked.
“Yes,” Flake replied.
Trump’s not the only Republican in America capable of getting to 270 in the electoral college, he went on to say. Well … maybe. He’s certainly the only Republican capable of winning a national primary, though. And for all his alleged electoral weakness, there weren’t many swing states he lost in 2016. Plug a Mike Pence or a Nikki Haley in there in 2020 and ask yourself how many suburban votes they’d need to pile up to offset the decline in support they’d likely see among working-class white voters. I’m open to believing there are other models of right-wing politics besides nationalism that can win in the near-term. I’m not open to believing after what we’ve been through that Flake’s brand of libertarian-flavored conservatism is one of them.
I don’t know why he’s so confident either that Trump losing in 2020 would instigate some massive course correction away from nationalism among Republican 2024 contenders. That might be true if Trump gets destroyed, but how likely is it that an incumbent president gets destroyed in a reelection bid anymore? Bush 41 lost in a three-way race while bleeding votes to Perot, which Trump won’t have to worry about; Carter lost badly to Reagan (in another three-way race) but it’s hard to imagine a modern president replicating a result like that in an era of toxic negative partisanship. Trump will start with 46 percent of the vote thanks to the enormous share of the right that believes the Democratic worldview is a cancer on America. Chances are he’ll add a couple of points to that 46 thanks to factors like the economy, his own campaign strategy, and so forth. If he loses 52/48, how likely are Pence or Haley to decide in four years that they’re better off upending the table and starting fresh than taking Trump’s nationalist platform and tinkering with it? There’s no 2020 outcome that’s going to end up setting the GOP right in Flake’s eyes.
In case you’ve wondered what he’s been doing with his time since banging the drum in the Senate against Trump, though, here you go. He’s been … banging the drum against Trump in debates held on what looks like a game-show set.