Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) this week did something remarkable for a politician: He expressed regret. “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end,” he said, announcing that he would retire at the conclusion of his term rather than participate in the politics championed by President Trump.
His remarks (and I say this despite being a Democrat and a former Obama speechwriter) were thoughtful and bold. His description of Trumpism was alarming and accurate: “Indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake.”
Yet Flake’s attempt at introspection fell short. It’s not just Trump who calls “fake things true” — it’s the whole GOP. Consider, for example, the way Flake and his fellow Republicans are even now busy selling the administration’s tax plan.
I was born in 1986, which means that for as long as I’ve been alive, tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations have been the central tenets of Republican orthodoxy. In the Reagan years, trickle-down theory held that tax cuts for the rich would lead to more wealth for everybody. According to George W. Bush’s “ownership society” doctrine, tax cuts meant both prosperity and freedom. When I cast my first vote for president, in 2004, these ideas were still broadly popular among Americans as a whole.