WANG: Sen. Jeff Flake tells it like it is

Opinions Column: A Third Person Perspective

As of 2018, Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake has become one of the most game-changing politicians that the country has witnessed since President Donald J. Trump’s continuously disappointing presidency. Much of the objection to our president was never about the electing of a Republican or even the differing views regarding immigration and citizenship status. Instead, what was truly infuriating is the president’s incapability to stand up for what he believed in. That is right — even for someone as pugnacious as Trump, instead of facing criticism, the only thing he was really capable of doing was wagging his finger and claiming that everything that did not inflate his ego was “fake.” 

It has been approximately a year into Trump's presidency, and the country still has to remind our president that the free press — an institution that vocalizes its constitutional right of informing the public — was never the enemy. Flake’s speech before the entirety of the Senate floor was directed towards teaching Trump a lesson that he will never listen to, because our president is simply too stubborn to acknowledge the importance of political discussion within our country. Our own president does not understand that differing stances, or rather, stances different from his own personal views on political matters, are valid. Flake represents a symbol of what can be learned for the rest of the country, in which his speech outlines crucial ideas of the freedom of press and truth that our democracy desperately needs. 

For example, one of the main ideas highlighted within Flake’s speech includes this statement: "Every word that a president utters projects American values around the world.”

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem resulted in such a powerful effect that it continues to ring throughout the country today. Kaepernick’s protesting of racial injustice and systematic oppression by simply kneeling during the anthem — a powerful yet peaceful demonstration of the right to protest — was met with Trump’s vocalizing: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now.’”

In regard to the bigger picture, what exactly does Trump know about disrespecting the flag? Sure, to some, refusing to stand for the anthem is disrespectful. But what about the racial and systematic oppression towards a specific race of people and the vehement denial of such skewed institutions in our society? Instead of actually addressing the issue of racism and discrimination within our country, Trump decided to foster hate and ignorance by suggesting that those who chose to kneel as a form of protest should be fired, as if that would resolve the kind of racial attitudes that these NFL players are attempting to address in the first place. It was not just Trump’s aggression towards Kaepernick’s protest that came out so wrong — it was his perpetuating of a kind of America where silent protests and freedom of speech are met with condemnation. Flake bringing Trump’s blatant assault toward Kaepernick’s actions to the public's attention is also an attempt to censor and squander the right to peaceful protest — all of it only continues to exemplify our president’s continuous demonstration of his incapability to understand the real message behind America’s pursuit of freedom and equality. 

Flake also addresses how, "The president has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot's enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy."

Flake understands that the press is not a tool or an extension of any presidential administration, and even compares the Trump administration as despotism or this overarching, tyrannical exercise of power. Our president continues to express his dissatisfaction and disapproval of any type of news that publishes an attack on his character instead of comprehending where these attacks are coming from (such as when Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women in his own private conversations). Trump decides to dismiss all of these allegations as “fake news,” because as true as they are, they simply do not appeal to the ego of our president. He has literally and blatantly decided to label our delivery of any truth of his character as “fake” if we refuse to paint him in a positive light, and Flake is not afraid to say it. 

As a result, Flake’s badassery in accepting an inevitable future of never winning a second term because he is not afraid to critique our president makes Flake our democracy’s new hero. Flake is a rare politician. He is not afraid of demonstrating how his Republican beliefs do not align with blindly following a Republican leader out of sheer obligation, especially when this specific Republican leader emphasizes despotism, the objection of truth and the attacking of the free press. 

Flake 2020, anyone?

Ashley Wang is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and minoring in philosophy. Her column, "A Third Person Perspective," runs on alternate Mondays.


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