Senate candidates Jeff Flake and Richard Carmona are running neck and neck in the latest poll, which is good news considering Flake was considered a shoo in only a few months ago. But honestly, Flake should be way behind Carmona, and part of the reason he isn’t is staring us in the mirror. Flake still enjoys a reputation for “moderate maverick” libertarianism and reasonableness among a lot of liberals in this state. I think part of it is liberals taking right wing noise makers at their word and believing the b.s. about Flake being a RINO but it’s also largely due to liberals projecting positive attributes onto Flake that he simply doesn’t have.
Let’s start with the most persistent myth liberals hold about Flake, which I’ve debunked on this blog in the past and will do again: That Jeff Flake is “good” on immigration. This belief, which I’m still hearing from some Democrats despite Flake’s recent hard right turn on the issue, is based on personal anecdotes – we visited him at his office to talk about the Dream act and he was so nice! – and Flake’s support for “comprehensive immigration reform” that had a guest worker program as its linchpin. But Flake has another, less-publicized, view on immigrants that liberals should find troubling. As far back as 2005 he has opposed birthright citizenship.
So put those two concepts together:
1. Jeff Flake supports, or used to support, a guest worker program.
2. Jeff Flake opposes granting US citizenship to children born to those guest workers.
What do you suppose the goal of someone who holds both those views simultaneously might be? If you say “a permanent underclass of powerless and disenfranchised laborers” you’re probably on the right track. “Good” on immigration? I don’t think so.
The other big mistake liberals (and moderates) make about Flake is that he is primarily driven by an objectivist limited government free market ethos. I hear versions of this all the time. “Well, he’s more of libertarian than a right wing Republican.” We are just supposed to accept that Flake is a very different, and somehow better, breed of Republican than Michele Bachmann or Todd Akin. But Jeff Flake votes identically to Bachmann and Akin, and also to his seatmate Trent Franks, who has a well-earned reputation as a wackadoodle. Unlike the immigration thing, where you can sort of see how some people got duped, why in hell is Flake continuing to get a special libertarian hall pass among Dems? He co-sponsored Akins’ “redefine rape” bill. He voted with the rest of the GOP caucus to let women die in the ER. He opposes gay marriage and is “not a fan”* of medical marijuana. What is libertarian about those positions? Sounds like he’s quite the statist authoritarian where your personal freedom is concerned. And when did we start liking libertarians so much anyway?
*Consistency. That’s another term I’ve heard some Democrats apply to Flake. Generally in these conversations Flake will be deemed “consistent” in conjunction with his being a “libertarian”, as if you should just assume those things go together. But how consistent has he been on immigration? He went from being the guest worker program guy making goo goo eyes at immigration activists when they lobbied him in DC to a full-throated “build the fence” nativist more recently. When the Todd Akins “legitimate rape” fiasco broke, Flake tweeted about how important it was for there to be rape and incest exceptions. Except that he also voted to redefine rape. (And favoring only rape and incest exceptions on abortion is NOT a moderate position anyway. It’s certainly not libertarian.) He’s been wobbly on weed as well. Flake embraced the Republican Liberty Caucus platform on drugs in 2000 and was given high ratings by NORML in 2006. Now he’s “not a fan” of medical MJ, which Arizona voters approved in 2010. So it’s pretty clear that the libertarian hall pass that Flake never should have gotten with liberals ought to be revoked, pronto.
I’ll have more tomorrow on why Flake’s amiable persona (barely) conceals some truly monstrous views.
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Bio: I grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and an adventurous streak led me to join the Navy. I moved to Arizona in 1997 after serving 10 years in the Navy to work in semi-conductor manufacturing. I got involved in national and Arizona politics in 2003. I ran for 2006 State Senate in Ahwatukee and was a Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I now live in North Central Phoenix with my boyfriend, Mark, and our three dogs. I've been blogging for Democratic Diva since 2007 about local and national politics with a strong emphasis on women's issues.