Sasse marches to his own tune as the Republican Party implodes around him


Sasse just won a race against Trump and is as relaxed as possible about his political situation. He does not face internal pressure in the Senate for his vote to convict Trump for inciting insurrection. A previous censorship in 2016 did not alter his views. If there is a model for how to successfully build a conservative Republican Party from Trump’s shadow, it could well be him.

But Sasse cannot be fully replicated. He’s a bit of a loner in the Senate, both in style and substance, someone who can’t understand how cable news, partisan congressional speeches, and culture wars have come to dominate politics.

That’s not to say that Sasse doesn’t mind Nebraskans spending their Saturday targeting Sasse’s vote to convict Trump. In fact, he’s puzzled that Republicans in his state even worked on Super Bowl Sunday to censor it.

“You want to go to some hotel, a mall conference room and yell at a politician who tried to tell you, ‘Would I oppose someone from my own party who violated their oath?'” She marveled. “That’s not healthy”.

Sasse easily received strong opinions during a 30-minute interview at his hideout on the Capitol. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) Says, “That guy is not an adult.” President Joe Biden’s White House is “cowering” at the views of people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (DN.Y.). Sasse sees Congress itself as little more than “a bunch of screaming gangsters.”

Sasse, 49 years old, He has a youthful energy, a fast rate of speech, and an appeal to all. When you open your mini-fridge, a great selection of Bud Light cans is revealed. He has a dry sense of humor, sincerity from the recent fights of his beloved Cornhuskers: “Half of all the presidential trials in US history occurred before Nebraska won another Big 10 game.”

He is not a particularly active participant in either the Senate or the Republican party meetings. He devotes much of his time to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he finds most satisfying among his assignments. And like most young and rising players in any game, Sasse avoids the question of whether he is preparing to run for president.

“I’m sure that, like all 17-year-old achievers, I’ve said stupid things in the past. But running for president has never been my goal, “he said.

In firing colleagues who clamor for using the pro-Trump mantle to further their own ambitions, he said he does not pursue topics that are “attractive to the rage industrial complex tomorrow. I am not interested in those things. I am actively bored.

Sasse stumped some senators when he first landed on Capitol Hill in 2015, but today there is growing respect for him as a serious and awkward member who takes his job seriously. When Democrats regained the Senate this year, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia) spoke in favor of Sasse with Democratic leaders to make sure he didn’t lose his seat on the panel. Warner says staying with Sasse was “very important” to him.

Progressive Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said Trump’s presidency tested his friendship with Sasse. But after Nebraska’s condemnation vote, Schatz said, “history will judge Ben Sasse to be a courageous leader.”

Even the most pro-Trump senators want Sasse at the GOP table rather than in the desert.

“I do not agree with his approach to Trump. But I want to grow the party, not divide it, ”said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.). “Ben’s future is bright, if he wants it, in the Republican Party.”

Sasse spoke to Trump during his presidency more than he let on publicly, pressuring Trump to elect Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and trying to dissuade his tariff regime. Sasse was generally supportive of Trump’s nominees and legislation in the Senate, but detested the former president’s antagonistic style.

A first draft of the Nebraska Republican Party’s no-confidence resolution to be considered Saturday said Sasse “has persistently engaged in public acts of derision and slander against President Donald J. Trump.” An Omaha-area effort to convict Sasse fell apart this week, indicating a possible lack of enthusiasm to move forward.

Sasse views the party’s efforts to condemn him as the latest act of performative outrage in American politics. I wish I could do more to explain to Republicans that promoting and protecting Trump is not what it means to be conservative: “You can’t redefine conservatism to mean conspiracy theorism.”

“I would like to persuade more people,” Sasse said. “We should try to be able to explain a Madisonian vision of conservatism: limited government, the First Amendment, the local community is the main thing.”

With the former president out of office, though still wielding serious influence, Sasse now has that opportunity as one of the most prominent anti-Trump politicians in a party that lacks a clear leader. He said he would help Republicans win back the Senate, but he is looking for “candidates who want to do more than just Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

Before long, Sasse will certainly be in the presidential mix for Republicans looking to turn the page on Trump.

“He would be a great candidate,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who will retire next year and mentored Sasse as a senator. “I’m just warning that 2024 is a life away. And you don’t know where it is positioned in relation to the field, if it runs. “

“He’s the kind of person who gets into the weeds,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), who voted to convict Trump. “He has a very important and constructive voice for the party.”

Still, Sasse is picky about when to use that voice. Avoid Capitol scrums and TV hits. But it has a lot to say.

Over the course of a 30-minute interview, he went from speaking of his censorship to the failure of the Texas power grid as “another case of all-consuming culture war cries.” When asked for his views on President Joe Biden’s stimulus package, he launched a long condemnation of Biden’s “disastrous” spending plan on education. He acknowledges how agitated the subject makes him, and adds that “it was not my intention to be passionate.”

But Sasse can get intense when he talks about his problems. His biggest criticism of his own work is that the Senate “is not really focused on” the problems facing the country when it comes to the future of work, confronting China and preparing for what life will be like 10 years from now.

That certainly doesn’t sound like a neat and orderly presidential platform, does it?

“I am sincerely focused on the issues that I am focused on because I believe it is the best way to manage my call to love my neighbor in this job,” said Sasse. “So 2024 is not really my timeline. 2030 is the timeline. “

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