Another Moderate Bites the Dust: Jeff Flake’s Flip-Flop on Immigration

In a repeat of Arizona politics, Congressman Jeff Flake rips a page from the playbook of Senator McCain and goes from maverick moderate to right wing revivalist. It seems the pressure from his party’s extremist base turned a once independent thinker into just another typical politician.

While many progressives claimed they weren’t surprised by the move, I found myself stunned and deeply saddened. I have spent a great deal of time following Mr. Flake’s statements on immigration. I have held him up as a model of intelligent discourse on the complexities of immigration reform and the realities of what it would take to bring about a solution. I truly believed that when or if an immigration reform bill passed through Congress, Representative Flake would be the one spearheading it.

Now I’m left pondering why someone so bright could suddenly become so dim. I realize this is a reaction to Arizona’s anti-immigration obsession and Mr. Flake’s upcoming run for Senator Jon Kyl’s seat, but does Jeff Flake really believe his 180-degree turn will fool voters?

I don’t think anyone was fooled by John McCain’s “build the damn fence” persona. We all knew he took the road of least resistance because when he stuck out his neck on immigration reform, his own party members turned tail and ran. Still, do we really think voters forgot John McCain’s earlier, sensible comments on immigration? Do we think voters who are dead set against immigration reform would be hood-winked into voting for McCain over J.D. Hayworth simply because of his newfound appreciation for a border fence?

If anything, John McCain lost the respect of many centrists, including myself, who had appreciated his maverick streak and saw right through his veiled attempts to recreate himself for the purpose of votes. And now, we have Jeff Flake lowering himself to the same election tactics: appeasing party power brokers at the expense of real solutions.

Congressman Flake knows immigration reform is a complex problem that will not be resolved by enforcement alone. He’s said so himself countless times. Now he’s saying he must change positions because “a comprehensive solution is neither desirable or possible given the current leadership.” Does that mean he blames President Obama? John Boehner? Harry Reid? Isn’t Congressman Flake part of our current leadership?

No one said the job of a legislator was easy. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Our elected officials are asked to solve a myriad of complicated problems while courteously responding to the people that put them in office. But that’s why we elect them… because they promise to SOLVE problems.

Sure, we can continue to spend millions of dollars on a high-tech fence that may or may not be successful in keeping Mexicans from illegally crossing the border, but even that doesn’t address the problem of the six million or so undocumented workers who entered legally and then overstayed their visas. Nor does it deal with the complicated and flawed visa system that prevents lower skilled migrants from obtaining a legal means of working in the United States. Or the delusional idea that 12 million undocumented workers will simply self-deport if we put up more barriers to their education and healthcare. If they risked life and limb to get here in the first place, it’s unlikely they’ll return just because they’re unable to obtain a high school diploma.

Make no mistake, border security is a necessary, vital and huge component of immigration reform. But it is not the only component. The easy fixes that have become the new mantra of this state’s former moderate leaders are neither easy nor the only fix to the problem of illegal immigration. And while Arizona continues to apply bandages to the problem, our national representatives smile, nod their heads, and wink-wink their way into yet another election cycle.

Congressman Flake is an intelligent and well-spoken individual. His flip-flop on immigration isn’t because of a sudden change of heart but rather a sudden change of ambitions. In his quest to become Arizona’s newest senator, he’s put aside doing what’s in the best interest of this country to do what’s in the best interest of his campaign. Now’s the time to let him know the gig is up. We’re not buying the idea of an easy fix, and we expect our leaders to do the hard work required for long-term solutions.


  1. Rebecca

    Flake is no “moderate” and he’s been lying to his constituents since he ran for his 4th term. He had promised to term limit himself to 3 and get out. His excuse for breaking that promise? “There still more work to be done”. Well, there has been “work to be done” since the nation was founded and will still be “more work to be done” long after Mr. Flake is dead. So the real reason? His own ambition and wanting to continue to push his Libertarian agenda. He’s not really a Republican, he’s Libertarian. Gotta love those who so hate the government, but so desperately want to be part of it.

    As those soldiers he voted to deny body armor to, deny benefits to, deny getting a house again when they return home….ask them how “moderate” they think he is. But, gee, he’s moderate like he “supports” the troops….with a lovely display he probably paid a few thousand for, but that fool the voters into thinking he’s a stand up guy for the military personnel. Kind of like him saying to them…”pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”… but putting on this big illusion. And the people fall for it. Shame on all of them.

    1. Post
      Julie Erfle

      Rebecca, you are correct that Jeff Flake’s voting record is clearly tilted toward the Conservative and Libertarian ends of the spectrum. When I said “another moderate bites the dust,” I was referring to Mr. Flake’s centrist positions on immigration reform. I should have made that more clear in my article. Thank you for your feedback.

  2. Paula Pennypacker

    Julie —

    Love this post. Let me show you what happens to someone who goes up against the extremists in my party.

    Is it any wonder Flake reversed direction on this very important issue?

    You are a woman after my own heart! Since the second grade I set out to be a U.S. Senator but realize, because of my position on immigration, and my efforts to bring down Russell Pearce that will never happen. But I believe that some things are more important than being an elected official.

    As my political mentor once told me — “If you want to make friends go to the beach — don’t go into politics.”

  3. Pingback: Patriot HQ - Annette McHugh: Jeff Flake, DeMint ENDORSMENT WORDS, WORDS, WORDS.

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