Why I Will Not Be “Celebrating” Ben Sasse

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Ben Sasse hanging out with his colleagues in 2017.

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson recently wrote a column calling on progressives to “celebrate” Ben Sasse as a “hero.” Robinson wrote that: “I look forward to the day when I can get back to disagreeing with the likes of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) about basically everything.” Robinson is a great writer and analyst on the cable shows but I have to disagree with him on this one.

Ben Sasse has received a lot of national attention since the election because he is one of the few elected GOP officials who condemned Trump’s attempt to steal the election and Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6. Sasse was also one of seven GOP Senators who voted to convict Trump on February 13. Those efforts are commendable but it’s simply Patriotism 101 to believe in free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. That’s a pretty low bar for any elected official to jump.

Unfortunately, Sasse’s straight talk and common sense about the outcome of the 2020 elections is an outlier relative to his overall record. Since he began to run for the Senate in 2013, Sasse has been your typical, standard party line Republican who obstructed Presidents Obama and Biden, and enabled Donald Trump.

Sasse’s biggest lost opportunity was his vote to acquit Trump during the first impeachment trial on February 5, 2020. Sasse should’ve known better — he said he wrote in Mike Pence in 2016. Nebraska’s junior senator could’ve voted to convict Trump last year and potentially spared the country nearly one year of hell.

Sasse’s not guilty vote in 2020 was just a small part of how he enabled Trump’s incompetence and criminality for nearly four years. Sasse voted for Trump’s signature policies: Trump Care, the failed 2017 tax cuts, the right wing judges and the wall with Mexico. Even though Sasse would occasionally post a sad tweet mildly criticized the former TV reality star, Trump could always count on his vote in the crunch.

Conversely, Sasse has been part of Mitch McConnell’s wall of obstruction during the Democratic presidencies. In 2016, Sasse joined the GOP blockade of Merrick Garland and then voted in 2017 to give the stolen seat to Neil Gorsuch. In 2020, Sasse has already voted to sabotage the country and the Biden presidency by voting to oppose any Covid-19 relief.

Nebraska’s junior senator at times has joined in the GOP’s inflammatory and apocalyptic rhetoric that motivated the MAGA thugs on January 6. When Sasse first announced for the Senate in 2013, he boldly prognosticated that: “If the Affordable Care Act survives, America will cease to exist.”

Sasse doubled down on that dangerous rhetoric on October 11, 2020, when he called his Democratic colleagues terrorists. 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.”

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.

I do respect Senator Sasse for speaking out so forcefully and so often in the aftermath of the 2020 election. It’s commendable but Ben is late to the party. It also doesn’t make up for his partisan votes in the Senate.

President Biden and the Democrats need to deliver on Covid relief. Franklin Roosevelt formed a winning and durable coalition because he improved the quality of life for the American people. Biden and the Democrats now have to do the same thing. I’m confident we can do it. Now let’s get it done!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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