Opinion: Flake refuses to participate in political puppet show

(Editorial Cartoon by Brian Regan)


There is a popular idea that America is more politically divided than ever before: that the people of this country are rapidly coalescing into two distinctive, opposing sides whose core differences can never be resolved; that there are two kinds of people: those who are destroying America, and those who are trying to save it; that any member of either side can be immediately identified based on his or her feelings about President Barack Obama; that we are rapidly slipping toward a second civil war. This idea is fictional and its depiction in the news is not reality, but theater.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is currently caught up in one of these acts of political theater. At issue, naturally, is the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. Despite the fact that it's been more than three years since ObamaCare was signed into law and more than one year since its legality was upheld by the Supreme Court, there is a still a large group of congressional Republicans, primarily in the House of Representatives, who are determined to see it defunded and destroyed. These crusaders have already demonstrated their willingness to cripple government functionality in the name of opposing ObamaCare, and now they're starting to turn on their own.

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) is a political action committee founded by Republican Senator Jim DeMint. Its primary objective is to financially support conservatives running for election, or re-election, to the Senate. Recently, the SCF has been asking Republican legislators to sign a pledge, by which they promise to vote against any new spending legislation that includes funding for ObamaCare. It has also started running attack ads against any Republican legislators who refuse to do so.

One of those legislators is Flake, who wouldn't sign the pledge, despite his well-documented opposition to ObamaCare. Flake's refusal is only sensible at this point. There's another Washington debate about raising the debt ceiling coming up in October, and this time, Obama has made it very clear that he is done negotiating with Republican obstructionists. The SCF pledge essentially asks congressional Republicans to once again raise the concept of a government shutdown, blocking any agreement on government spending until ObamaCare is defunded. In its video attack on Flake, the SCF claims, “Republicans in Congress can stop ObamaCare by simply refusing to fund it” and “Jeff Flake won’t stand up to President Obama and join conservatives in pledging to oppose funding for the implementation of ObamaCare.” The truth is Jeff Flake has better things to do than vainly fighting against a law that isn't going anywhere, and he knows it.

As of this writing, the House of Representatives has held 40 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As the House is Republican-controlled, all 40 votes have passed. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter. No piece of legislation shutting down ObamaCare has a prayer of passing in the Senate, and even if it did, there's this guy named Obama sitting in the White House with a veto pen. It's not happening. Jeff Flake is smart enough to realize that by now, and he understands that he has a better chance of being re-elected by helping the government avoid a shutdown than by associating himself with the extreme wing of his party still holding out for a cause that's clearly lost. His response to the SCF's attack came in the form of a two-word tweet: “Oh, whatever.”

The fact is, this entire fight over ObamaCare is a partisan parlor trick, a big-budget political production made of smoke and mirrors. Republican obstructionism has nothing to do with ObamaCare. The Affordable Care Act was originally introduced in the 1990s by a conservative think tank called the Heritage Foundation. The current president of the Heritage Foundation is Jim DeMint, founder of the SCF. There's no better illustration of how obvious these theatrics have become.

There is no war between Democrats and Republicans, no coming conflict that will rend the American public asunder. The war is a puppet show, designed to distract us while the elites of this country go on doing whatever they want. It has great production values and a lot of people are still convinced that it's real, but more and more, Americans are beginning to realize the truth. Jeff Flake should get the applause for refusing to go along with this illusory nonsense and trying to act in the best interests of Arizona and the country as a whole.

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