Another Four Years Of Donald Trump Will Ruin the Republican Party For Good: Former Senator Jeff Flake

Former Senator Jeff Flake speaks to the press after receiving a briefing from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on developments in Saudi Arabia on Capitol Hill. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has never been quiet about his disdain for President Donald Trump. Until January of this year, he took his role as one of the only vocal Republican anti-Trumpers in the Senate seriously. The president responded with similar disdain, calling him Jeff Flakey.

For some time, there were murmurings that Flake might be the man to primary Trump in 2020, but that's not going to happen, Flake confirmed. The only hope for the future of the Republican party, Flake said, is if they lose this election.

"Republicans need to take a break and come back to the principles that have animated party in past and can present coherent philosophy in the future," Flake told Newsweek over the phone Friday. Flake had argued, and won, in an Intelligence Squared debate that Trump should not be re-elected the previous evening.

"Of course my preference is to nominate any other Republican than the president," explained Flake. "But I don't think that's going to happen. I'm a realist, and I know this is currently the president's party." Taking time to realign the party's values around "free trade, concerns about deficit and debt and supporting the current international order," said Flake, will be necessary if Republicans want to continue to win elections.

"When the president chose to go after John McCain it brought into great relief the difference between the McCain Republican and the president's version of where the party ought to go," said Flake. "One is inclusive and meant to appeal to a broader audience, and the other is based on trying to scare people into supporting the party and to insult the other side. That won't do the party any good in the future. You can gin up the base and win an election here or there for a cycle or two, but in the end, you drive the party into oblivion."

Moving beyond party, Flake told Newsweek that four years of a Trump presidency will create a mess, but after eight years the cleanup could be impossible.

"The problem is about our image and reputation worldwide. We were the architects of this new world order with our trade relationships and security arrangements; we promoted free trade and Democracy. Now, other trade relationships are developing with us. China is really filling the void," he said. "Security arrangements as well, in years past we were the only people in town to do that. There were no other viable choices, there still aren't good choices, but other countries are taking them."

Flake isn't suggesting that war is imminent, though he is concerned about it. He also worries that the president isn't properly addressing radical terrorist organizations in African like Boko Haram or Al Shabad.

So who does Flake want to win next year?

"Joe Biden, Amy Klobacher has a good appeal to centrist voters, maybe Beto [O'Rourke] but it's a little too early to tell," he said. "Michael Bennet from Colorado, he looks like a really good candidate and a good person. Just a thoughtful, centrist person, but Biden sticks out right now."