A Profile in Courage: Jeff Flake’s Contribution to Democracy

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Hailey Ryan , Editor-in-Chief

“The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people—faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment—faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.”

In 1955, President John F. Kennedy published a book titled Profiles in Courage. In only 272 pages, Kennedy showcased the integrity of eight U.S senators and defined what it really means to be a part of a democracy. To Kennedy, a democracy can only flourish when it puts faith into its people, and when its people appreciate the gift of democracy. Only then will a nation demonstrate courage and respect honor; only then will there be true faith in democracy.

It was not until reading this quote from Profiles in Courage that I realized that I, and thousands of other Americans, don’t know the true meaning of democracy. Democracy cannot exist without faith, so how can we expect it to flourish when we live in a faithless nation? For years now the American people have lost faith in their own government and people. I watched my faith dwindle the moment Donald Trump was elected president and lost it after a year of smug complacency from the Republican Party. Democracy felt dead in America.  

For months, the Republican Party condemned Trump as an abomination to our nation and to their party, yet was too cowardly to do anything about it. I was angry at the shameful complacency and the selfish complicity of the GOP.  I was infuriated that my elected officials were too concerned with their own political careers to denounce a man who is horrible for our country. What is the point of being a public servant if you do not serve the public? How could such flagrant complacency continue in such a great country? Didn’t they worry about the judgment of history more than the count of a ballot? Was all faith in democracy truly lost?

When ultra-conservative Senator Jeff Flake recently announced that he would not be running for re-election, a glimmer of faith rekindled in my mind. Instead of prioritizing his political career, Flake sacrificed a career he’s spent a lifetime building to excoriate President Trump and fight for democracy.  “We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake said.

Flake rebuked the Trump Administration’s “personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.” This condemnation alone was more than what most have done to oppose Trump. Finally, we have a public servant who is willing to serve the public. Finally, we have a government official who cares not about popularity but about what’s best for the U.S.

It was the absence of honorable people like Jeff Flake that made me lose faith in democracy. Now that Flake has taken a turn in the right direction, I hope that others will follow his path towards creating a more faithful America.