GU Politics was honored to host Arizona Senator Jeff Flake for a special conversation about conservative politics in the U.S. Amelia Irvine, president of Love Saxa, introduced the Senator and described the various positions he has held in the past, which include serving as the Representative of Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, Executive Director of Foundation for Democracy in Namibia, and President of the Goldwater Institute. The event was moderated by GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee.
The conversation started off with discussing Senator Flake’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative, which prompted the first question as to how the Senator would define a “conservative.” Senator Flake said a conservative is someone that wants to maximize individual freedom, decrease the size of government, promote free trade, and support immigration. In regards to the last component of being a conservative, the Senator understands that pro-immigration is not a popular stance in the current Republican Party, but based on his experience with immigrants during his formative years, Senator Flake thinks the party should be the party of immigrants and it would be making a grave mistake by not broadening its coalition.
Later on in the discussion, the Senator talked about his experiences in the early 2000’s and how he felt at that time, describing it as “being a minuteman who was called up to the front to discover that the war was over.” The energy from the Contract with America movement was lost by the time he was in the House of Representatives, so he only focused on education reform and corruption. The Senator believes that the Republican Party lost the Senate and the House of Representatives in 2006 as result of the party not staying in touch with its conservative principles.
The conversation moved onto the topic of Trump and the Tea Party. The Senator acknowledged that the Tea Party movement certainly created a populist sentiment that Trump would later tap into. Although Senator Flake admitted that he originally supported the Tea Party’s fiscal stance, he could not support the movement’s immigration position. In addition to this discussion with the Tea Party, Senator Flake mentioned how politics has become more vitriolic and how he is very concerned about the decreasing amount of people in the middle.
The question and answer section of the event included questions about pro-choice, free trade, and the nomination of Merrick Garland. The event ended with the Senator stating that working as a public servant is a noble job and we need to remove the cynicism from politics, which can be achieved by listening to people on the other side of the aisle and changing the channel or looking at different news feeds.