The Sasse Situation

As an elected official, Sasse often says great things. But what about his actions?
Ben Sasse
Senator Ben Sasse(Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 3.0)

To the surprise, sadly, of absolutely no one, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. I say “sadly” because I like Sasse. I think he’s a smart, decent guy, and I’m sure that if you were to meet him for dinner or a beer, you’d enjoy some great conversation.

As an elected official, Sasse often says great things. He recently took to the Senate floor and talked about the importance and necessity of the #MeToo movement, the seriousness of sexual assault statistics, and the awfulness of President Trump’s behavior (“he is dispositionally unable to restrain his impulse to divide us”). If you read his Senate speech transcript, it all sounds really nice, with words that ring with passion and moral clarity.

But what frustrates me to no end is that when it comes time to vote — to actually do something — Sasse never seems to follow through on his words. Instead, he almost always stands with the Trump/party line (or to be more precise, 86.8% of the time). Or as this recent Rolling Stone article puts it, Sasse makes a powerful display and then… returns to business as usual.

It’s hard not to become cynical at this behavior, or to see it as a mere self-righteous display (i.e., he wants us to see him as an outsider speaking truth to power, even as he sides with power again and again). I don’t doubt that deep down inside, Sasse is probably disgusted by Trump et al. But one of these days, I wish he’d stop playing it safe and make his voting match his rhetoric.

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