Ben Sasse has called for more civility in the U.S. Senate and even gave a lecture on the topic at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2019. Nebraska’s junior Senator is also an author and in 2018, he wrote: “Why We Hate Each Other.” In this book, Sasse wrote: “We really don’t like each other, do we? Why are we so angry? What we need are new habits of mind and heart. We need new practices of neighborliness.”
When it comes to civility, has Ben walked the walk? Or is it just all talk? History doesn’t begin when Sasse writes a book or posts on Facebook. Let’s never forget that GOP propaganda depends upon amnesia and bad memories. It’s our duty as Democrats to refresh memories.
On Fox News Sunday on October 11, Ben Sasse called Democrats terrorists. That’s right. In an interview with Chris Wallace, Sasse charged that Democrats who favor court reform and eliminating the filibuster rule are suicide bombers. Nebraska’s junior senator claimed that: “What they’re really talking about — or refusing to talk about — is the suicide bombing of two branches of government.”
Wow. That’s not very civil. Can you imagine the outrage from the GOP and the right wing media if a prominent Democratic Senator claimed that his/her Republican colleagues were like the same evildoers who murdered 241 Marines in Beirut in 1983? Sasse’s allegation is absolutely outrageous. The former president of Midland University owes every one of his Democratic Senate colleagues an apology.
Now let’s unpack Sasse’s inflammatory and divisive statement and explore the merits of the issue.
Court reform is a long time tradition in American political history. John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and Jimmy Carter all added seats to the federal courts. Lincoln and Grant even added seats to the U.S. Supreme Court. Were these great Americans terrorists?
What Sasse and his right wing allies don’t tell you tell is that the GOP has been packing the federal courts for over 50 years. In 1968, the GOP and segregationist southern Democrats filibustered Lyndon Johnson’s choice of Abe Fortas to replace Earl Warren as Chief Justice. That allowed Nixon to choose Warren Burger as the Chief Justice after he was elected president.
More recently, GOP obstruction during the Obama years has led to more GOP court packing. In the last two years of the Obama presidency, Mitch McConnell and Ben Sasse refused to confirm over one hundred Obama lower court nominees. In addition, the Senate Republicans refused to allow hearings and an up or down vote on Merrick Garland in 2016. That allowed Trump to steal this seat when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2017.
The current attempt to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett is another attempt by the GOP to steal a seat on the Supreme Court and pack the courts. As we all know, in 2016, McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans told us that there was a tradition not to confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year. Obviously, McConnell and his Senate GOP colleagues have done a shameless 180 on this phony “rule” in their attempt to jam through Coney Barrett’s nomination before the election.
Sasse supports maintaining the filibuster rule because right wingers have abused the filibuster rule since the 1950s to obstruct progressive reforms that would benefit African-Americans and working families.
Between 2009 and 2017, McConnell abused the filibuster rule in an attempt to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency and sabotage the economy. Already, McConnell and his GOP Senate colleagues are scheming to destroy a Biden presidency. McConnell and Sasse have blocked any additional economic relief for hard pressed working families, states, cities and first responders.
The reality is that the right wing agenda largely consists of deficit funded tax cuts for the wealthy and pro-business judges. The Republicans can pass regressive tax cuts with 51 votes in the Senate using the budget reconciliation rules. Moreover, McConnell and Sasse have already eliminated the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees.
In contrast, Democrats can’t use the budget reconciliation rules to pass universal health care, gun safety reform and climate change legislation. Under the current rules, it would take 60 votes to pass most of the Democratic agenda. In other words, it’s virtually impossible for the Democrats to enact their platform.
It is our duty as Nebraska Democrats to point out to the media and other opinion leaders that Sasse’s rhetoric about civility is directly contradicted by his actual statements and record. One cannot reconcile the two.
I would recommend to all Nebraskans that they write in Preston Love of Omaha for the U.S. Senate. Preston is a great guy, long time community activist, historian, author and a member of the U.N.O. faculty. Preston would make a great U.S. Senator. All you need is Love! Let’s get it done! On to victory!