Ben Sasse is a relative political outsider with only six years of experience in Congress, but by some he is seen as the future of the Republican Party. But what is it that Nebraska’s Junior Senator actually believes?
At 48, Ben Sasse is one of the youngest members of the Senate. Prior to 2015 he had never held elected office — though he did serve as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation under George W. Bush.
Unlike many Republican politicians, Ben Sasse is, in his heart, a conservative liberal. You may be thinking, what is a conservative liberal? Contrary to popular belief,, those two words do not cancel each other out. The United States has a political vocabulary that is at odds with both the rest of the world and general academic terminology.
When I say liberal, what I mean is a person who believes in the core principles of liberal democracy — freedom of speech, voting and so on. Liberals tend to focus on the individual and individual rights rather than racial groups, economic classes and collective rights.
Liberals range from center-right to center-left, from conservative to progressive. Conservatism itself can best be described as a respect for and defense of existing hierarchies and social structures. While all liberals value hierarchy to some degree, progressives tend to be more egalitarian and less hierarchical.
As covered by my colleague, Senator Sasse has some interesting ideas for how the Senate should be reformed. While I disagree with his view that the Senate should go back to being elected by state legislatures, I appreciate that he is at least proposing something.
Ben Sasse has long been an outspoken critic of President Trump. Even when I lived in California, I was well aware of who he was given the amount of times he showed up in my news feed. But even with his frequent denunciations of the President, the Junior Senator from Nebraska has remained, through his actions, a staunch supporter of our 45th president.
In stark contrast to his words on Trump, Sasse has voted with the president 86.7% of the time. So, which should we believe — what he says or what he does? As a consequentialist, I tend to give more weight to actions than words, and in fact, tend to believe that unless followed up by action, words don't carry all that much weight.
Despite the fact that I disagree with Senator Sasse on just about everything except guns, when I read, watch, and listen to him in interviews I do genuinely get the sense that while we disagree we could have an honest and nuanced conversation. When you get Ben Sasse talking about history or political processes and mechanisms he comes off as genuinely excited to talk about this stuff, and though we disagree these are also topics I enjoy talking about. All in all when it comes to these things, Ben Sasse honestly seems like a fellow dork.
I believe that, like most other politicians, the prime motivation for Ben Sasse is not to make America a better place. No, the reason he and other Republicans — and even a fair number of Democrats — run is power. As displayed by the recent hypocrisy of the Republican Senate in the handling of the Supreme Court hearings, Republican politicians, unlike their Democratic counterparts, will generally allow their desire for power override their desire to do the right thing. That is why the party that touts itself as morally superior has, with very little exception, backed the most immoral president in our nation’s history to the hilt.
While Senator Sasse may truly believe that President Trump is a godless bigot who trafficks in the language of hatred and white supremacy, his actions are not those of a man who believes that, but rather those of a man who will put power over principles.
Nick Finan is a sophomore political science major. Reach him at email@example.com.