DEVLIN: Should Ben Sasse Leave the GOP and Become an “Independent Conservative?”


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

On Saturday, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska tweeted that he “regularly considers” leaving the GOP, but clarified that he wasn’t considering a move to the Trump-deranged Democratic Party.

Senator Sasse spoke more on his decision to tweet out this message on The State of the Union with Jake Tapper.

“I conceive of myself as an independent conservative that caucuses with the Republicans, but frankly neither of these parties have a long-term vision for the future of the country. You know, ten years from now, where are we going to be in the future of work when young people are disrupted out of jobs three times a decade, future war and cyber, the collapse of community? There is massive stuff happening in America, and these parties are really pretty content to do twenty-four hour news cycles screaming at eachother. The main thing that the Democrats are for is being anti-Republican and anti-Trump, and the main thing Republicans are for is being anti-Democrat and anti-CNN. Neither of these things are really worth getting out of ben in the morning for. I think we should be talking about where the country is going to be in ten years. I’ve been saying for a long time these parties need to reform and have a future-focused vision, and we’re not there yet.”

Sasse is right—the partisan divide in the United States has continued to widen after it reached record levels during the Obama Administration. A Pew Research study found in 2017 “widening differences between Republicans and Democrats on a range of measures the Center has been asking about since 1994, as well as those with more recent trends. But in recent years, the gaps on several sets of political values in particular – including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration – have increased dramatically.”

The most severe of the aforementioned changes focused on racial discrimination.

“When the racial discrimination question was first asked in 1994, the partisan difference was 13 points. By 2009, it was only somewhat larger (19 points). But today, the gap in opinions between Republicans and Democrats about racial discrimination and black advancement has increased to 50 points.”

Herein lies a chicken or the egg dilemma. Are the American people demanding that politicians and leaders provide them instant gratification with blatant disregard for the long-term direction for the country, or is the increase in partisanship distracting the American people from focusing on the future?

The answer is that the two most likely work in tandem to create a positive feedback loop.

Some were infuriated at Sasse’s comments on twitter and CNN. “It might behoove @BenSasse to bring #Republicans together to save America from socialism and the #IllegalAlien invasion and welfare tsunami. He’s a sensible man with good values. Why not lead your party, Senator, rather than snipe at it? Get on the bus or off the bus,” James Woods ranted on Twitter.

But Woods wrongly ignores the most important part of Sasse’s tweet: Sasse does not, and will not, consider affiliating with the Democratic Party. With a one-vote majority in the Senate, Sasse believes he could possibly leverage his party affiliation to push the GOP to re-prioritize its platform. Is this a threat to the Republican Party? Rhetorically, maybe. Policywise, not so much. Sasse’s gripe is with the party’s messaging and refusal to fully commit to its principles, not a rejection of conservative principles themselves. Sasse continues to side with Trump more than 85 percent of the time, so it’s likely even as an independent, he would continue to side with the GOP on key issues, such as Supreme Court nominations, tax cuts, deregulation, and the revitalization of the American military. Therefore, it wouldn’t serve as a palpable threat to a majority of the current administration’s agenda.

Don’t get me wrong, Sasse has a point. The Republican message is short-sighted, and the party needs to refocus on issues like the government deficit. The question Senator Sasse seems to be confronting is at what point does the GOP’s message become so toxic that it becomes appropriate to leverage his political affiliation to make the party redress his grievances.

Ben Sasse may disagree vehemently with some of the president’s messaging, misguided policies, and morality; but Sasse separates with Trump only 13.3% of the time. On the whole, I don’t think the degree of Sasse’s separation from Trump’s agenda is large enough to warrant dropping the R next to his name on the ballot come 2020.

For Sasse, there is still political utility in having an R next to his name on the ballot. Not only does this help Sasse avoid a primary challenger in 2020, it gives Sasse the opportunity to help the GOP refocus on the nation’s most-pressing issues from within and brand himself as a Rand-Paul-esque figure in the party. By dropping the R next to his name, he jeopardizes the bond with the GOP caucus and further GOP support to tackle the legislative priorities he cares about most.

All things considered, the Nebraskan voter shouldn’t oust Sasse in 2020 over what seems to be a messaging disagreement. His vision for the country is solid on philosophical and public policy grounds. As long as he continues to side with conservative principles on major issues like national security, tax reform, and deregulation, he’s voting for the policies which got him elected in the first place.


Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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