Jeff Flake and an Elevator: The Scourge of Partisan Politics

Jeff Flake was incredibly close to doing it again. After seemingly acting as one of the lone voices of dissent towards the goals of the Trump Administration, Flake was about to vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations, and the least favorable nomineesince Robert Bork in 1987. Voting to confirm Kavanaugh would solidify Flake’s legacy: as the Senator who stated vehemently on the Senate floor that it was his “obligation” to criticize the President and “stand up and speak out as if [the] country depends on it” as he announced he would end his Senate career at the end of his current term.

Despite his retirement ensuring that he would face no repercussions from his electorate for any potential actions that would deviate from his party beliefs, Flake quietly fell in line with his Republican cohorts, much to the dismay of Democrats hoping to flip a crucial vote that would prevent Republican senators from consolidating their majority power. For the senator that stated that the Senate “should never be afraid to compromise”, compromise was proving scarce. Perhaps expecting Flake to vote against his own conservative beliefs was a stretch for Democrats, but it was all they could hope for in an unprecedented era of partisan politics; the same principles that led Flake to release a statement stating his intent to confirm Kavanaugh despite sitting through hours of emotional testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser. Flake had succumbed to partisanship, despite having every reason a Republican senator could have not to do so.

Then, Senator Flake stepped into an elevator and everything changed. Five minutes earlier, Flake and his aides had released his statement, and the world knew what his vote was going to be. Two brave women, Ana Maria Archilla and Maria Gallagher, read the statement and immediately sprinted to confront Flake before he arrived at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to cast his vote. They found him catching an elevator with doors closing on their opportunity to speak out. Then, Archilla thrust her foot forward, and both she and the doors opened up at Flake.

It remains to be seen whether Archilla and Gallagher’s efforts will yield the result that they wanted, but the stand they took brought about a change of heart in Flake. In one of the most bizarre sequencesto take place in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flake announced his last stand against the Republican party. It wasn’t a large concession to many, but Flake used every ounce of his leverage to ensure that an FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh allegations took place. His actions don’t necessarily mean that Kavanaugh won’t be confirmed after the allegations. However, they do show a departure from the collective partisan action of not taking the allegations seriously enough in the first place, which is the most important takeaway from the day’s actions.

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