Sasse has just won a downgrade from Trump and is as relaxed as one can get about his political situation. He faces no internal pressure in the Senate for his vote to condemn Trump of inciting an insurgency. A previous censorship in 2016 did not shake his opinions. If there is a model for successfully building a conservative GOP out of Trump’s shadow, it might as well be him.
But Sasse cannot quite be reproduced. He’s a bit of a loner in the Senate, both in style and substance, someone who can’t comprehend how cable news, congressional partisan rhetoric, and culture wars have come to dominate politics.
That’s not to say Sasse isn’t embarrassed that Nebraskans are spending their Saturday targeting Sasse’s vote to condemn Trump. In fact, he’s bemused that Republicans in his state even worked on the Super Bowl on Sunday to censor him.
“You want to go into a hotel, a conference hall in a mall and yell about a politician who tried to tell you, ‘I would oppose someone from my own party who violated his oath? ‘ ‘, He wondered.
Strong opinions came to Sasse easily during a 30-minute interview at his Capitol hideaway. Of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), He says, “This guy is not an adult.” President Joe Biden’s White House “curls up” in the face of the opinions of people like Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (DN.Y.). Sasse sees Congress itself as small but “a bunch of screaming thugs.”
Sasse, 49 years old, has youthful energy, a rapid speaking pace and an appeal to everyone. When he opens his mini-fridge, a sizable selection of Bud Light cans is revealed. He has a dry sense of humor, astonishing the recent struggles of his beloved Cornhuskers: “Half of all presidential indictments in US history have happened before Nebraska won another. Big 10 match. ”
He is not a particularly active participant either in the Senate or in GOP party meetings. He devotes much of his time to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he finds the most satisfying among his assignments. And like most younger and rising players from both parties, Sasse avoids the question of whether he is preparing to run for president.
“I’m sure like all 17 year olds I’ve said stupid things in the past. But running for president has never been my goal, ”he said.
Sacking his colleagues who are clamoring to wear the pro-Trump mantle to pursue their own ambitions, he said he is not pursuing issues that are “sexy for the rage industrial complex of tomorrow.” This stuff doesn’t interest me. I do not care. actively annoys me.
Sasse puzzled some senators when he first landed on Capitol Hill in 2015, but today he is increasingly respected as a wobbly and serious member who takes his job seriously. When Democrats took over the Senate this year, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) Gave Sasse a good word with Democratic leaders to make sure he doesn’t lose his seat. in the panel. Warner says keeping Sasse was “very important” to him.
Progressive Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said Trump’s presidency has put his friendship with Sasse to the test. But after Nebraskan’s condemnation vote, Schatz said, “history will judge Ben Sasse to be a courageous leader.”
Even the most pro-Trump senators want Sasse to be at the GOP table rather than in the wilderness.
“I don’t agree with his approach to Trump. But I want to grow the party, not divide the party, ”said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.). “Ben’s future is bright, if he wants to, in the Republican Party.”
Sasse spoke to Trump during his presidency more than he hinted at publicly, pressuring Trump to choose Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and trying to dissuade his tariff regime. In general, Sasse supported Trump’s Senate candidates and legislation, but hated the antagonistic style of the former president.
A first draft censorship resolution from the Nebraska GOP, due for consideration on Saturday, said Sasse “has consistently engaged in public acts of ridicule and slander against President Donald J. Trump.” An effort by the Omaha region to condemn Sasse collapsed this week, signaling a potential lack of enthusiasm to follow.
Sasse sees the party’s efforts to condemn him as the latest act of performative outrage in American politics. He wishes he could do more to explain to Republicans that promoting and protecting Trump isn’t 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 view of conservatism: limited government, First Amendment, local community is paramount.”
With the former president removed from 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 take over the Senate, but is looking for “candidates who want to do something more than 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 is retiring next year and mentored Sasse as a senator. “I just want to warn that 2024 is a lifetime away. And you don’t know where he’s positioned in relation to the pitch, if he’s running.
“He’s the kind of guy who goes deep into the weeds,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Who voted to condemn Trump. “He has a very important and constructive voice for the party.”
Still, Sasse is selective about when to use this voice. He avoids the Capitol scrums and television hits. But he has a lot to say.
In a 30-minute interview, he went from his censorship to the failure of the Texas energy grid as “another case of crying swallow-up culture war.” Asked about his opinion on President Joe Biden’s stimulus package, he unleashed a long condemnation of Biden’s “disastrous” spending plan on education. He acknowledges how agitated the problem is making him, adding that “I didn’t want to get excited.”
But Sasse can get intense discussing his issues. His biggest criticism of his own work is that the Senate “doesn’t really focus on” the issues the country faces in regards to the future of work, confronting China and preparing for what life is like. in 10 years.
It sure doesn’t sound like a neat and orderly presidential platform, does it?
“I’m genuinely focused on the issues I’m focusing on because I think that’s the best way to deal with my call to love my neighbor in this job,” Sasse said. “So 2024 is not really my schedule. 2030 is the timeline. “