While major media outlets, political pundits, and Democratic leaders spent much of Tuesday afternoon praising Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) for their "scathing" public rebukes of President Donald Trump, many progressives are urgently warning against welcoming the two "renegade" Republicans into the ranks of the anti-Trump opposition, given that both have overwhelmingly supported the bulk of the White House's agenda.
"Your daily reminder that establishment Republicans want Trump to do every single thing he's doing minus the mean tweets"
Tuesday night offered a case in point: after a long day of denouncing Trump as "dangerous to our democracy" and calling for an end to congressional "complicity," Flake and Corker—both of whom have decided to retire rather than seek reelection—obediently toed the administration line by voting to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's ban on "rip off clauses," a move denounced as a massive "gift to the bank lobbyists."
"Jeff Flake gave a nice speech, collected a few compliments, and then went right back to voting for the Trump agenda," summarized The Nation's John Nichols following the narrow late-night vote. If just one of the senators had voted no, the measure would have failed.
Jeff Flake and John McCain both pretend to defy Trump - but they just helped him give a major gift to Wall Street: https://t.co/JTj6xtTKoY
— Alex Emmons (@AlexanderEmmons) October 25, 2017
A glance at the recent past is enough to show that this "wet-kiss-to-Wall-Street" vote was no anomaly. According to FiveThirtyEight, Flake has voted with Trump 90 percent of the time, and Corker 86 percent of the time.
Critics were quick to observe that this is true of all establishment Republicans who have publicly expressed outrage at Trump's conduct in office—Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) also voted for the Wall Street giveaway.
It is Trump's breach of decorum that the GOP establishment dislikes, not the actual substance of the president's agenda, political commentator Kyle Kulinski concluded amid the chorus of praise for Flake and Corker.
"Your daily reminder that establishment Republicans want Trump to do every single thing he's doing minus the mean tweets," Kulinski wrote on Twitter.
This sentiment was echoed by progressives across social media, with many highlighting the fact that America's political woes run far deeper than Trump and urging the public to recognize the complicity of senators who oppose the president in word only.
Flake is "for lower taxes on rich, denies climate change, [is] anti-union, what exactly is he resisting, Trump's manners?" concluded The Intercept's Zaid Jilani in response to one Democratic representative who welcomed Flake's "defection" with open arms.
Jeff Flake bravely resisted Trump by voting with him like 90% of the time, plugging a book & quitting ahead of a primary fight. Godspeed sir
— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) October 24, 2017
Flake and Corker voted for this.
Empty words, even on their way out.
— Steve Marmel (@Marmel) October 25, 2017
Consider the possibility that Flake/Corker retirements represent not a heroic rebuke of Trump, but instead a further GOP surrender to Trump.
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) October 25, 2017
BREAKING: Renegade GOP senators *annihilate* Trump by ᵘʰʰ voting in line with him 90% of the time & then retiring from public office forever
— LanaDelGravetheon (@LanaDelRaytheon) October 24, 2017