Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona shocked his colleagues and the country on Tuesday by announcing that he will not seek re-election in 2018.
Flake made the announcement while speaking on the Senate floor, noting he will not be "complicit" in the degradation of the current political climate. The Arizona senator directly criticized President Donald Trump and the Republican party for their recent actions. Flake admitted that there are times one must risk their career in favor of our principles.
"Now is such a time," said Flake.
The Arizona senator noted he was speaking with regret over the "disrepair and destructiveness" of today's politics.
"It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end," said Flake. He criticized the president's "personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions" as well as the "flagrant disregard for truth and decency."
Flake urged that such things should not be considered normal, and that they cannot be excused as "telling it like it is" when it is really "reckless, outrageous and undignified." He added that such behavior is not just bad for politics, it is in fact "dangerous to a democracy." Flake also took a shot at those in his own party who have been complicit and believe in absolute loyalty to the president.
"I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit," said Flake.
Though Flake's speech was somber in its tone, he did add that "this spell will eventually break" and that Americans "will return to ourselves once more."
Flake's timing may come as something of a surprise, but his tone and criticism of the president is nothing new. He has frequently spoken out against Trump's actions through op-eds, television appearances and statements since Trump took office in January.
While Flake's speech focused on principle, there are also likely political reasons behind his decision. The Arizona senator's approval rating sunk to an abysmal 18 percent in August, with only 31 percent of those polled claiming they would support Flake in the next election, while 47 percent said they would prefer a Democratic opponent. Flake's challengers have taken notice, specifically Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, who has the support of Trump allies like Steve Bannon.