OpinionBen Sasse gets a lesson in Trump-era accountability


HR King
May 29, 2001
A few weeks before the 2020 election, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) unloaded on Donald Trump during a fundraising conference call he surely knew would be leaked to the news media. After offering a litany of complaints about Trump’s shortcomings and mistakes, he looked ahead to where his criticisms might put him. “The debate is not going to be, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?' " he said. “It’s going to be, ‘What the heck were any of us thinking, that selling a TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?’ ”

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He was quite wrong about that, at least within the Republican Party. And as he now tries to transition away from politics, Sasse is discovering something else that must cause him no end of frustration: Though he tried to find the sweet spot between criticizing Trump at some moments and supporting him at others, Sasse is now one of the few Republicans facing genuine accountability for the moral degradation of the Trump-era GOP.
Trump’s lickspittles and cronies get presidential pardons, lucrative lobbying gigs and the party’s nomination for offices at all levels. Sasse, who tried hard to position himself as a Trump skeptic, gets controversy and legions of young people chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Ben Sasse has got to go!”

Sasse plans to step down from the Senate this year to take a job as president of the University of Florida, where he is the only finalist for the position. It must have seemed like a natural move: While many politicians have secured university presidencies, unlike most of them Sasse has some qualifications for the role. He has a Ph.D. from Yale and served as president of Midland University in Nebraska.

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Yet when he went to Gainesville on Monday to meet with faculty, staff and students, he was met with hundreds of angry protesters, who disrupted meetings and eventually left him fleeing in a police vehicle.
They had a variety of objections, especially involving Sasse’s positions on LGBTQ rights and climate change. But they also have another set of grievances, ones involving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a Trump imitator for whom Florida universities such as this one have been among the tools he uses to fight his enemies and serve his ambitions.

As governor, DeSantis has the power to appoint six of the 13 members of the UF board, which he has used to install political allies there. DeSantis has tried to muzzle and punish faculty and assert control over the state’s public universities. He signed a bill undermining tenure for faculty, and another bill requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to survey the political views of students, faculty and staff, both of which would allow the state to exert more ideological influence over teaching. The university also temporarily forbade a group of professors from testifying as expert witnesses in a lawsuit against his voter suppression law.
All this has created an atmosphere in which students and faculty quite reasonably see themselves as under siege from a right-wing state government. Add in the life-or-death partisanship of our current era, and when a conservative but Trump-hesitant Republican senator was announced as their likely next president, they refused to tolerate it.
Over the past few years, Sasse no doubt saw what happened to people like his former Senate colleague Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was full-throated in his criticism of Trump and then decided he could not win the next Republican primary so stepped down after a single term. Sasse didn’t want to go quite that far.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sasse thought he was perfectly positioned for a future in his party after 2020: Trump lost badly, then discredited himself with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and surely the GOP would want to rid itself of him and all he represented. Sasse was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Instead, his party is as firmly committed to Trump as ever. And apart from the occasional story of someone being asked to leave a restaurant or young Trump staffers being unable to find dates, there hasn’t been much accountability for those who served him, promoted him and made clear their own moral depravity by defending him.
Because so much of the GOP was invested in Trump, it was in its interest to make sure no one would suffer from the moral stain of their connection to him. And had Sasse wanted a think tank sinecure or some corporate board seats, no one would have protested. But he tried to step back into academia, where liberals have plenty of power.
All of which shows that while Trump contaminates everything he touches, the irony is that the more you were willing to drink his Kool-Aid, the less damage that contamination did to you. The Republicans facing the biggest consequences are the people like Sasse who didn’t really want to be a part of it.


HR All-American
Sep 16, 2010
When the left agrees to rid itself of it's anti American fringe, then I take a second look at Trump. But for now the right's Trump is the left's Biden.


HR Legend
Apr 26, 2013
“wouldn’t be surprised if Sasse thought he was perfectly positioned for a future in his party after 2020: Trump lost badly, then discredited himself with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and surely the GOP would want to rid itself of him and all he represented.”

This is exactly what I thought would happen. I am honestly shocked, saddened, and frightened that it did not.


HR King
Gold Member
Jan 30, 2008
Sasse is a pussy. F him. Hopefully he meets some non white people before he moves to Gainesville or he’ll struggle to lead such a diverse university.