The craziness coming out of the Republican Party is continuing to alienate even some of its most conservative members, as indicated by a new video from U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, saying the party shouldn’t be about “the weird worship of one dude,” meaning Donald Trump.
Sasse, who is a solid conservative and no LGBTQ+ ally — he has a string of zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard — is nonetheless not in thrall to Trump, QAnon conspiracy theorists, or the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol January 6 to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote for Joe Biden.
Sasse did not support Trump in the 2020 or the 2016 election, and in the wake of the capitol attack, which led directly to five deaths, he said Trump was partly to blame, as the then-president was “pouring gasoline on these fires of division.” He has expressed openness to Trump’s impeachment; the Senate will hold its trial on the impeachment charges next week.
Now the Nebraska Republican Party’s State Central Committee is considering censuring Sasse; members will vote on the matter February 13. But in the video, released Thursday and directed to the committee, he had strong words for his critics.
“Political addicts don’t represent most Nebraska conservatives,” he said. “Very few” of the people he’s talked to across the state are “as angry at life” as some of the committee members, he noted.
When he first ran for Senate in 2014, he said, he promised to speak out when “any leader in either party crossed the line.” He received standing ovations for that. But now, regarding his criticism of Trump, “many of you are hacked off that I condemned his lies that led to a riot.” Sasse said he has never abandoned conservative principles, but people are angry at him for “not bending the knee to one guy.”
“What Americans saw three weeks ago was ugly: shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of the Congress to affirm that peaceful transfer of power,” he said. “It happened because the president lied to you. He lied about the election results for 60 straight days.” Then the mob invaded the capitol, many of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” who as vice president was overseeing the certification vote. And they had been egged on by Trump, Sasse said.
“If that president were a Democrat, we both know how you’d respond,” he said. “But because he had ‘Republican’ behind his name, you’re defending him.”
“Personality cults aren’t conservative,” Sasse continued. “Conspiracy theories aren’t conservative. Lying that an election has been stolen is not conservative. Acting like politics is a religion isn’t conservative.”
He noted that he easily won reelection last year, receiving a record number of votes — more than Trump — and even winning in Omaha, the state’s largest city, which tends to be liberal. So the effort to censure Sasse doesn’t indicate that voters are angry with him; it’s happening because he refuses to believe that politics should be about “the weird worship of one dude,” he said.
“The party can purge Trump skeptics,” he said. “But I’d like to convince you that not only is that civic cancer for the nation, it’s just terrible for our party.”