The Trouble With Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse has been a reliable vote for President Trump's agenda. But he also has principles and that is unforgivable.

Ben Sasse talks a fantastic game. When he laments a Congress whose members would rather be TV pundits than lawmakers, people cheer. When he talks about Congress not fulfilling its core functions, people take notice. But the response from some is that Sasse himself is all talk and no action. The growing chorus from Trump supporters it that Ben Sasse is a disloyal do-nothing who criticizes the President with no record to show for it.

On the latter, it is worth noting that Sasse has voted for the President's Obamacare repeal, tax cuts, and judges. In fact, Sasse has been not just a reliable vote for conservatives, but also for most of President Trump's agenda. To the extent Sasse has been critical of President Trump, a great deal of it has been about the President using powers Congress abdicated and needs to take back -- a view many of those who are now attacking him held with him when Obama was President. The other prominent criticisms from Sasse towards the President are about the President's conduct in office -- criticisms shared by even a lot of Republicans.

That is really the point. The people attacking Sasse have little to attack with Sasse's votes. They are not attacking Sasse for upholding the conservative principles they claim to have. They are attacking him for being disloyal to a man -- they are in a cult of personality.

To be sure, Sasse does not have a deep well of legislation to cite as his own. But then the Senate of the United States no longer works in ways conducive to any one Senator staking out claims to legislation. By and large, both Schumer and McConnell push through leadership drafted legislation at the expense of everything else. Short of an Elizabeth Warren or a John McCain, who could use their celebrity like profile to push through their own initiatives, it does not happen.

Additionally, Sasse is a conservative. In the 231 years since the ratification of the Constitution, it should be possible for Congress to make no more laws. Conservatives should support a man who spends more time opposing new laws than trying to pass more. Congress cannot even pass a budget, its core function, and that is not Ben Sasse's fault.

I do think Sasse could and should use the rules of the Senate a bit more. While the leadership of both sides greatly discourages individual senators from pushing legislation to the floor, Sasse could harness the rules if he wanted to. A good parliamentarian like Dr. James Wallner, who knows the ins and outs of Senate procedure, could help Sasse.

Ben Sasse seems to long for the days where Senators thought about the long term. But the Senate has never just been about thinkers. It has had legislative leaders as well who were not necessarily its leaders. I encourage Sasse to take some of his core passions and use the parliamentary procedure of the Senate to advance them.

But let's not kid ourselves. He is one man. He is also one man with a conscience living by a set of principles many of those who attack him claimed to hold until Trump got elected. The objections to Sasse come not from a conservative position, but from a cult of personality that is more intent on defending Trump at all costs than rolling back the size and scope of the federal government.

Ben Sasse maintaining his principles exposes many of his critics as rudderless sheeple looking to be led by a strong man. That is an unforgivable sin.

Comments
No. 1-19
DavidMKern
DavidMKern

Erick correctly claims that Sasse has been a "reliable vote for conservatives, but also for most of President Trump's agenda." The problem Trump supporters have with Sasse is not his voting record. Rather the problem is that in an open letter to Trump supporters in 2016, Sasse made a firm decision to never support Trump, arguing that conservatives must seek a third option:

Erick believes Sasse is a righteous man standing up against an unrighteous cult only attracted by Trump's personality. However, Trump's supporters have stuck with him not because of an attraction to his personality but because he has largely done (or tried to do) exactly what he promised voters he would do.

The biggest policy difference Sasse has with Trump is the same major policy issue Erick has with Trump: i.e., Trump's claim that the current trade deals are "free trade" in name only, because they are unsymmetrical trade deals that unfairly penalize the US.

In his open letter, Sasse makes this statement:

"If our Party is no longer working for the things we believe in like defending the sanctity of life, stopping ObamaCare, protecting the Second Amendment, etc. then people of good conscience should stop supporting that party until it is reformed."

However, Trump's policies have been solidly behind these three issues, just as Trump's selection of judges has received high praise from those supporting constitutional rulings. It is not Trump supporters who have an issue with a personality cult. Rather it is Never Trumper's like Sasse who can't stand Trump's personality, which makes them blind to how/why Trump policies attracted his voters.

etbass
etbass

Now that I have defended Sasse, I will take some shots. When it comes to actually doing something, Sasse is MIA. When there was a chance to stop Trump in the 2016 primaries, where was Sasse? Doing nothing. He didn't endorse Cruz. He didn't endorse Rubio. He didn't do anything.

When the Obamacare repeal was up in the Senate, where was Sasse? Who the heck knows? He wasn't with Cruz, Lee and Paul trying to get a real repeal. Maybe he was playing basketball with Corey Booker, but he sure wasn't standing up with those guys and trying to get a real repeal. The crap bill failed anyway, so we could have at least called out the feckless cowards and liars within the GOP by forcing a vote on a real repeal. Sasse was either too lazy or too cowardly to join the fight. That proves that Sasse is not a leader. His vote is still valuable, but he isn't to be elevated above his current position.

I don't have a problem with his criticisms of Trump as they are mostly accurate, except for the fact that when presented the opportunity to do something, Sasse did nothing. Now he likes to whine and cry about Trump, when he is as responsible as anyone else for not doing his part to nominate a different candidate.

etbass
etbass

Sasse doesn't have to be leader to be effective or to be worth keeping in the Senate. We don't need 100 leaders in the Senate. I would be thrilled with Lee, Paul, Cruz and 48 Ben Sasses. It would be a lot better than the current crop of 51 GOP Senators.

That said, Sasse could be a leader. He isn't. Look at Cruz and Paul. Both of them have led on multiple issues, starting from Day 1. They might not have passed much, but they have stopped a lot and changed the national conversation and the direction of the GOP, even if only slightly.

etbass
etbass

Sasse has a conservative voting record. He is #3 on Conservative Review's scorecard.

Are not Trump supporters saying all the time that the only things that matter are the results and that the rest is irrelevant? Then all of a sudden, all that matters is that Sasse is critical of Trump, not that he is one of his strongest allies when it comes to actually voting.

Which is it? Do only actions matter or do words and behavior matter too? You can't have both of these without being a hypocrite and a hack.

Korinne
Korinne

Sasse has got no ground to be upset about Trump considering he kept the fence nice and warm with his hind end all during the election.