When it comes to the inter-Republican conflict that has been raging and looks to dial-up in the post-Trump years, there seem to be two primary camps inside the GOP. On the one hand, there is the brand of conservatism espoused by Ben Sasse, among others. On the other hand, there is the National Populism that is not fully realized in Donald Trump but has been fleshed out by members of the Senate such as Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton.
Sasse also has the character that Trump’s lack of, in part, led to his downfall this election. His brand of conservatism is the only way to win well.
National populism seeks to build a new coalition for the GOP in the white working-class through policies like tariffs and Big Tech regulation such as repealing Section 230. Hawley has gone so far as proposing a ban on unlimited scrolling for apps such as Twitter and Instagram. Hawley and his ilk are for big, intrusive government. They also take hardline stances on immigration with Tom Cotton making definitive statements against legal immigration.
National Populism is not conservative and deserves to be forcefully rejected from the Republican party
Sure, what Sen. Josh Hawley proposes can win, but it will win at the cost of a massively inflated government with policies that land well outside the Constitutional charter for the federal government. And there’s also what Trump did to win in 2016 (which was really just “don’t be Hillary Clinton”) that has people thinking, even after he lost in 2020 that it’s a winning formula.
Trumpian abrasiveness will never win a majority of Americans.
Ben Sasse, however, is one of the most consistently conservative members of the Senate. Sasse has also been one of the few Republicans consistent from the Obama administration and into the Trump administration. He has remained consistent on the national debt, voting against huge spending bills, one of which the majority of Senate Republicans voted to pass in 2019.
Sasse has also been willing to criticize President Trump over his policy failings and embarrassing outbursts. On a constituent call, Sasse lambasted the President for “[kissing] dictators’ butts” and “[mocking] evangelicals behind closed doors.” Sasse rips the President for his utter inability to lead the country and our allies. This might anger Trump supporters, but it should bring joy to conservatives. Trump has not been a conservative, and Ben Sasse is doing exactly what Trump supporters claim that Trump does (but doesn’t)—tell the truth.
A common defense of the President—and his populist allies—that I’ve heard from friends and family is that Trump “tells it like it is.”
Frankly, he doesn’t. He tells it like he wants it to be, which has been exemplified no greater than in his prolonged post-election temper tantrum. Sure he’s saying it how he sees it, but we don’t praise children when they throw a fit because they see something as unfair when it clearly is not.
They also talk about how “Trump fights!” and ask things like “What are Conservatives really conserving?” Sure, Trump fights.
Trump fights at the expense of any sense of humility or civility. He “fights” by declaring that MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, had murdered his staffer back in his congressional days. To answer the second point, conservatives are attempting to conserve the Constitution, unlike the national populists.
Ben Sasse is the proper realization of that “he tells it like it is” attitudinal desire for a candidate by the Republican base. Sasse isn’t afraid to stand up against the powers that be to stand for his values. He also isn’t disrespectful in his means of doing so. Sen. Sasse embodies firm principles with a strong sense of civility. He’ll tell a Progressive that they’re dead wrong. He won’t, however, offer to pay the legal fees of his supporters to beat up hecklers.
Ben Sasse offers a brand of conservatism that is character-driven. We can’t claim to be the movement of Christian values when our chosen leader is a thrice-married philanderer who sleeps with porn stars. Character is what’s missing from the calculation and it’s necessary to win well. It’s not enough to be for Conservative policies. A GOP nominee must be upright in character. It’s not starry-eyed idealism to demand your leaders act like leaders.
The way to win is clear: stick to our conservative guns and keep an upright character.
Republicans have a choice in these coming years. Align with a brand of conservatism that allows us to regain the moral high ground or swing to a “win at all costs” strategy that throws away principles for the sake of power. Ben Sasse’s brand of conservatism might not be the only path that leads to political victory, but it’s the only path that conserves what we hold dear.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.