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During an interview on MSNBC, the Nebraska senator said he wants the Republican Party to be “the party of Abraham Lincoln, limited government and great human potential.” He criticized Trump for a lack of conservative principles and for playing “race-baiting” games.

Trump refused during a national television interview Sunday to disavow David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

“I want to celebrate what’s great about America in the Republican Party,” Sasse said. “But if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump — I’m out.”
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse: If GOP embraces politics of Donald Trump, 'I'm out' (Joseph Morton, Mar 2, 2016 , Omaha World-Herald)
This, in a nutshell, is the central problem of Ben Sasse. He is a performatively deep thinker, an advocate of public decency who makes a case for good-faith discourse that is both eloquent and, in the FAKE NEWS!!!!!!1! era, timely. He states that case convincingly in his new book about raising hard-working and civic-minded children, The Vanishing American Adult. “Living in a republic demands a great deal of us,” he writes in a sort of mission statement for his public persona. “Among the responsibilities of each citizen in a participatory democracy is keeping ourselves sufficiently informed so that we can participate effectively, argue our positions honorably, and hopefully, forge sufficient consensus to understand each other and then to govern.” But so far, Sasse’s practical participation in our democracy—he was elected to the Senate in 2014—has mostly advanced the interests of an increasingly authoritarian, unreasonable Republican Party. In his first remarks on the Senate floor, he argued that the body should “strengthen and clarify meaningful contests of ideas.” Four months later, he wouldn’t even give Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a perfunctory meeting. And he certainly didn’t advocate giving Garland a hearing and a floor vote, as one would imagine he should have given his expressed desire for the Senate to become a lively forum for dramatic, legitimate debate rather than pre-written sound bites and predictable party-line votes.

Many politicians are hypocrites, of course. But most of them are also phonies and bull[*****]s. Ben Sasse isn’t. He stands out by educating himself earnestly and speaking honestly about complicated matters of history and policy. (He’s got to be the only serving Senate Republican to have written a book that approvingly cites 1960s leftist cultural critic Paul Goodman.) Unfortunately, he is also beginning to stand out by doing nothing of substance as the things he says he believes in are thrown in a garbage can by his own party. Evidence that Donald Trump was at best indifferent to and at worst complicit in Russia’s sabotage of the last presidential election is growing. Mitch McConnell is turning into the home stretch of an attempt to force through a wildly unpopular health care bill that still hasn’t had a public hearing. Democratic traditions are under attack, and Sasse is not returning fire. Does any of his thoughtfulness and honesty really matter if, come voting time, he’s just another partisan hack?

    -PROFILE: The Wasted Mind of Ben Sasse: The Nebraska senator has urgent, persuasive ideas for saving American politics. Why won’t he act on them? (Ben Mathis-Lilley, JULY 13, 2017, Slate)
The thesis of this book by Senator Ben Sasse is straightforward:
We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence. Our kids simply don’t know what an adult is anymore, or how to become one. Many don’t see a reason even to try. Perhaps more problematic, the older generations have forgotten that we need to plan to teach them. It’s our fault more than it is theirs.
It is less academic and ultimately less useful than Jonathan Haidt's Coddling of the American Mind, but it makes a few important claims that the Senator needs to then be measured against himself. In particular, he, being of that older generation, has taken upon himself the obligation to teach the younger about what adulthood means. And, as the discussion proceeds, adds the responsibility to show how jobs ought to be performed, what civic virtue is, etc. Many politicians do not take up this sort of mantle. Donald Trump, for instance, does not even pretend to be setting an example for others to follow and betrays no interest in maturity, work ethic, civic engagement or any other social value. Mr. Sasse has made his own bed.

The Trump years have been an extraordinarily difficult time for conservatives, not just because Donald is so spectacularly not one of us, indeed, ran against the entire history and program of conservatism, but because so many of those who we thought were fellow conservatives have been corrupted. No one in their right mind is surprised that guys like Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz sold out, but the deterioration of institutions like First Things, Claremont Review of Books, even of Modern Age once our friend Peter Lawler passed, has been discouraging. The most disturbing aspects of the deal they have made with the devil surround their acceptance/defense of Donald's personal immorality, of his debased manner of conducting himself in the office of the Presidency, of his treasonous collaboration with Vladimir Putin and of the racism/Nativism/Islamophobia that shapes every policy in which he has invested any personal effort. American history is replete with examples of parties tolerating some personal wrong doing as the price of power--Nixon's GOP, Clinton-era Democrats--but the GOP embrace of, or capitulation on, trade protectionism, anti-immigration hysteria, and violation of Constitutional and republican norms represents a repudiation of core elements of why the party exists in the first place.

Initially, at least, it looked like Ben Sasse was going to be one of the lone holdouts in Congress against this Trumpism. During the election season he made no bones about the fact that Donald Trump is unworthy of the Party and unworthy of Republican voters. During the Administration he has been one of the few Washington critics of Donald's excesses. As late as 2019 he was still being characterized as a leader of the Never-Trumpers. But, on issue after issue, when push comes to shove he has voted with Donald and against his own stated beliefs. After speaking out against the Muslim ban he offered disingenuous cover for it; he voted to allow Donald's use of emergency power at the border, despite criticizing it as anti-constitutional; and he even voted against Impeachment, despite acknowledging the wrongness of Donald's actions. It came as no surprise that he accepted Donald's endorsement of his re-election bid--they had proven to be allies, not opponents.

This lead to one of the most discomfiting interviews you'll ever hear, when he appeared on the Remnant with Jonah Goldberg: -PODCAST: Episode 136: Censor the Senator (Jonah Goldberg, 9/19/2019, The Remnant). Jonah has often said that he doesn't like becoming too friendly with politicians because they'll let you down, but it is the Senator's own shame even more than the host's disappointment that makes this excruciating listening. The fact is that in many ways, being an elected official inevitably entails some degree of conflict between serving the public broadly, serving your party and, narrowly, serving your own career. It is futile to expect much purity given those constraints.

But how might a Senator Sasse who took his own text seriously have been expected to act? For one thing, like an adult. He might have taken his own public pronouncements seriously and accepted the responsibility to follow where they led. If you aren't willing to see the GOP become the party of David Duke and Donald Trump, even if that means you leave the party, then do something to resist the trend or leave. Instead he is now running under the Duke/Donald imprimatur.

As one of his chapters admonishes: "Accept Work Pain". It is no use taking the easy way out yourself while telling kids they need to be ready to accept hardship on the job. Being an elected official is not meant to be easy. You always have to face difficult choices. But just as he would not counsel a young man to countenance his boss's wrongdoing in exchange for a raise, Mr. Sasse can not justify rolling over for Donald in exchange for help in his own primary.

Likewise, the subtitle of his book calls for "rebuilding a culture of self-reliance." Yet in each of these votes Senator Sasse was untrue to himself, to his own beliefs and to his stated standards. What exactly did he rely on in betraying them?

And, most devastating of all, while the best part of the book is the summons to civic education and republican virtue, what does his own behavior teach the perpetually adolescent and uninformed he claims to be so worried about? Does he walk, in public life, the talk in this book? Sadly, no. If there ever was an adult in this room, he too has vanished.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

Ben Sasse Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Ben Sasse
    -SENATE SITE: Ben Sasse
    -TWITTER FEED: @SenSasse
    -FACEBOOK PAGE: Ben Sasse
    -ENTRY: Ben Sasse (Vote Smart)
    -ENTRY: Senator Ben Sasse (
    -ENTRY: Ben Sasse (BallotPedia)
    -ENTRY: Ben Sasse (538: Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump)
    -ENTRY: Ben Sasse: United States senator (Gregory Lewis McNamee, Encyclopædia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Sen. Ben Sasse (Heritage Action for America)
    -PROFILE: Relationship with 'needy' Trump a complex part of Sasse political legacy (Henry J. Cordes, 1/08/23. Omaha World-Herald)
-WIKIPEDIA: The Vanishing American Adult
    -BOOK SITE: The Vanishing American Adult (St. Martin's Press)
    -EXCERPT: from The Vanishing American Adult
    -ESSAY: The Responsibility to Counter China’s Ambitions Falls to Us: The American inheritance and the American promise are both precious and precarious. If we don’t defend them vigorously, no one else will (Ben Sasse, JANUARY 26, 2020, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: 17 Questions Every College Should Be Asking: We need a serious conversation about the future of America’s universities (Ben Sasse, SEPTEMBER 4, 2019, The Atlantic)
    -EXCERPT: from Ben Sasse's Them: Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal: Introduction - More Politics Can’t Fix This
    -PODCAST: Episode 5: Surviving the apocalypse (Jonah Goldberg, October 25, 2017, The Remnant)
    -PODCAST: Episode 30: The Nebraska Shuffle (Jonah Goldberg, April 3, 2018, The Remnant)
    -PODCAST: Episode 60: Stray Cats and Screaming Chyrons (Jonah Goldberg, The Remnant)
    -PODCAST: Episode 136: Censor the Senator (Jonah Goldberg, SEP 19, 2019, The Remnant)
    -PODCAST: Senator Benjamin Sasse joins Peter Robinson to discuss his book The Vanishing American Adult (Uncommon Knowledge, June 2, 2017, Hoover Institute)
    -VIDEO: The 2017 Bill of Rights Institute's Kansas Public Lecture where President of the Institute David Bobb converses with Ben Sasse about his new book the Vanishing American Adult (Bill of Rights Institute, Oct 16, 2017)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE): The Vanishing American Adult (Arthur C. Brooks, May 23, 2017, American Enterprise Institute)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: What Does Washington Have to Do with Jerusalem? (Ben Sasse, Apr 11, 2017, The Gospel Coalition)
    -PODCAST: Senator Ben Sasse on American Society and Culture (Conversations with Kristol, April 24, 2017)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: No More Neverland: A Senator's Guide To Raising American Adults (Steve Inskeep, May 16, 2017, Morning Edition: NPR)
    -VIDEO: Pizza, Pints & Policy with Senator Ben Sasse (Charles Murray, July 25, 2017, Hoover Institute)
    -VIDEO DISCUSSION: The Vanishing American Adult with BEN SASSE & RUSSELL MOORE (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, August 26, 2017)
    -PODCAST: The Vanishing American Adult with Senator Ben Sasse (Truth Without Fear Podcast Episode 10, December 10, 2017, The Wake Forest Review)
    -VIDEO COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS: Never Again Will Jerusalem Grieve. (Westm,inster Seminary, May 28, 2016)
    -PODCAST: RADIO SHOW #1369: The Vanishing American Adult (Michael Horton, 02 Jul 2017, White Horse Inn)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Sen. Ben Sasse: The Vanishing American Adult (Michael Medved, May 19, 2017)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Senator Ben Sasse on The Vanishing American Adult and the Comey Memo (DUANE PATTERSON, MAY 17, 2017,
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: After Words with Senator Ben Sasse (C-SPAN, MAY 17, 2017)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Sen. Ben Sasse Is On The Hunt For ‘American Adults (Jane Clayson, May 15, 2017, WBUR)
    -PODCAST: Ben Sasse on Trump and being an adult (POLITICO's Off Message, 5/30/17)
    -PODCAST: Sen. Ben Sasse and the Vanishing American Adult (Hosted by Jay Caruso, Neal Dewing, The Fifth Estate)
    -VIDEO: Meet Senator Ben Sasse: Self Described Independent Conservative (Aspen Ideas)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: In 'Them,' Sen. Ben Sasse Says Politics Are Not What's Dividing Americans (Audie Cornish, October 15, 2018, Heard on All Things Considered)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska joints to discuss his new book on loneliness and tribalism, and the current state of the Senate (Firing Line, 10/19/18)
    -PROFILE: The Life of Sasse (Nathaniel Fischer, 1/17/21, American Mind)
    -PROFILE: Nebraska’s Ben Sasse: A ‘Never Trump’ Holdout in the Senate (Jennifer Steinhauer, May 27, 2016, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: What Is Ben Sasse Thinking? (JOHN MCCORMACK, October 10, 2019, National Review)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse Explains Why His New Book Is Really, Truly Not About Running for President (MICHAEL SCHERER, MAY 5, 2017, TIME)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse: Getting to know you (Don Walton, Jun 10, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star)
    -PROFILE: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Ben Sasse: The Republican senator from Nebraska isn't afraid to speak out against President Donald Trump. (Anzish Mirza,?April 24, 2017, US News)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse, GOP senator, leads #NeverTrump movement (Zachary Roth, 05/05/16, MSNBC)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse: A Reformed reformer: A U.S. senator talks personal theology and public policy (J.C. Derrick, September 30, 2016, World)
    -ESSAY: All talk, no action: Ben Sasse, Republican metaphor (Dick Polman, September 10, 2018, WHYY: National Interest)
    -ESSAY: Trump critic and rising GOP star Ben Sasse is now a Trump apologist. How sadly predictable.: Sasse could have been a thought leader of post-Trumpian conservativism. What is he now? (Charles Sykes, 9/22/19, NBC: Think)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse: If GOP embraces politics of Donald Trump, 'I'm out' (Joseph Morton, Mar 2, 2016 , Omaha World-Herald)
    -PROFILE: Ben Sasse, the Senate GOP's 'Never Trumper,' irks some voters at home (Rick Hampson, 6/06/16, USA TODAY)
    -PROFILE: Is Trump an 'adult'? Ben Sasse won't say: Trump 'comes out of a reality TV world,' the Nebraska senator says. 'And I have lots of anxiety about whether or not that kind of world is really what we want for our kids.' (EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, 05/30/2017, Politico)
    -INTERVIEW: Our Politics Should Address the Rebirth of Community: A Conversation with Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska (The Catalyst, Summer 2018)
    -ESSAY: This senator gave the weirdest commencement speech you will ever hear (Chris Cillizza, 5/18/20, CNN)
    -ARTICLE: Sen. Sasse clashes with Graham after calling out 'bull---t' 'grandstanding' for cameras at hearings on Russia probe (Sam Dorman, 6/04/20, Fox News)
    -ARTICLE: Trump used ‘Word of God as a political prop,' Sasse says (MATTHEW DALY, Jun 3, 2020, Associated Press)
    -ARTICLE: Ben Sasse, one of the Senate’s last remaining Republican Trump critics, to seek reelection (Stephanie Akin, August 5, 2019, Roll Call)
    -ESSAY: Ben Sasse Parked His Speech Somewhere Between a Megachurch and Open Mic Night at the Chuckle Hut: In which we check on one of the leaders of the Not Publicly Insane faction of the Republican Party. (CHARLES P. PIERCE, MAY 18, 2020, Esquire)
    -PROFILE: If the Republican Party Can Be Saved From Its Trumpocalypse, This Senator Could Be the Key: Long before his colleagues saw the light, Ben Sasse repudiated Trump and demanded a new kind of politics. But is the GOP ready for his reformation? (TIM MURPHY, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016, Mother Jones)
    -ESSAY: What the Heck, Ben Sasse?: Sasse tarnished his reputation as a thoughtful, independent, constitutional conservative by supporting Trump's emergency declaration. (ERIC BOEHM, 3.14.2019, reason)
    -ESSAY: Sasse Warns Trump That National Emergency Could Set Dangerous Precedent (JACK CROWE, February 15, 2019, National Review)
    -PROFILE: Who Is Ben Sasse Kidding?: The Nebraska senator is perfectly satisfied with the bargain he struck. He just wishes he’d paid a little less. (JAY WILLIS, September 10, 2018, GQ)
    -PROFILE: The Wasted Mind of Ben Sasse: The Nebraska senator has urgent, persuasive ideas for saving American politics. Why won’t he act on them? (Ben Mathis-Lilley, JULY 13, 2017, Slate)
    -ARCHIVES: Ben Sasse (EPPC)
    -ARCHIVES: sasse (Hoover Institute)
    -ARCHIVES: sasse (National Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse (Matt Lewis, Daily Beast)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Malcolm Harris, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Heather Wilhelm, National Review))
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Emma Green, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Naomi Schaefer Riley, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Jennifer Szalai, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Maura Casey, The Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Heidi Steves, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Clay weerner, Books at a Glance)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Rebecca Brenner, Activist History)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Ryan Puzycki, Objective Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Melanie Danner, Humanum)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Laura Vanderkam, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Joseph Morton, Omaha World-Herald)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (ANDREW WILLIS, Lincoln Journal Star)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Sherry Preston, Gering Courier)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Coyle Neal, Christian Humanist)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Kyle Wingfield, Dalton Daily Citizen)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Hal, Raising Real Men)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Grant Lichtman)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Slasher Pastor)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (John R. Muether, Ordained Servant Online)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Aaron W. Hughey, Bowling Green Daily News)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Jennifer Pagliara, Tennessean)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (ALICIA ADAMCZYK, Money)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Joseph Kremers, Catholic World Report)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Mark Hemingway, The Federalist)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (John R. Coyne Jr., Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Keith Miller, Mere Orthodoxy)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Alex Nichols, The Outline)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Future Female Leaders)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (ELLIOT FUCHS, Lone Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (B.D. McClay, Comment)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Market Watch)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Charis Classical Academy)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Janie, Redeemed Reader)
    -REVIEW: of Vanishing American Adult (Dr. Richard Blackaby)
    -REVIEW: of Them by Ben Sasse (George Will, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Them (New York Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Lloyd Green, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Them (John R. Coyne Jr, Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Mona Charen, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Daniel Patterson, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Austin Detwiler, Philanthropy Daily)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Andrew J. Spencer, Ethics & Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Patricia Smith, Booklist)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Michael Schaub, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Barton Swaim, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Michael M. Rosen, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Jonathan Gelbart, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of Them (Charlotte Allen, Law & Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of Them (henry Olsen, UnHerd)
    -REVIEW: of

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