My One Chance at an Overnight in the White House

Ben Sasse wins the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Nebraska — handily!

Sasse blunted a mini-surge from wealthy bank executive Sid Dinsdale, who appeared to emerge as a threat during the final week of the campaign amid a nasty advertising battle pitting Sasse and his allies against former state treasurer Shane Osborn, the candidate most closely aligned with the GOP establishment.

With most precincts reporting, Sasse led Dinsdale 48 percent to 23 percent, with Osborn running third with 22 percent of the vote. Sasse will be a heavy favorite in the general election considering Nebraska’s strong conservative tilt.

And yet, you’d have never known Sasse was even a candidate from NPR’s fly-over coverage yesterday:

LIASSON: Today there’s a primary in Nebraska, where Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and groups like FreedomWorks are backing one candidate. Mitch McConnell is backing another. But while that intramural fight is bitter, the stakes are low. In the very red State of Nebraska, the Senate seat will probably stay in Republican hands no matter who wins the primary.

There and elsewhere in GOP primaries, the differences are more about style than substance. Terry Schilling is with the American Principles in Action, a Tea Party ally.

TERRY SCHILLING: In 2010 and 2012, you saw this typical battle between the establishment and the Tea Party. What we’re seeing today is not necessarily a battle between the establishment and Tea Party, but both the conservative establishment and the Tea Party are embracing populist issues.

LIASSON: So instead of a Todd Aiken saying dumb things about rape, Schilling says you have Republican candidates across the board embracing bans on late term abortions.

SCHILLING: I would argue that right now what’s changed is that we all want a purer party, right? We want a party that stays in line with our principles. But we also want a party that connects with a broad base of voters. The conservative movement and the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party are getting more practical.

LIASSON: Democrats argue even if the Republican establishment is winning primaries they’re still nominating candidates that are too conservative to win. That proposition will be tested in November. But no matter what happens then, Matt Kibbe is on safe ground when he describes what the Republican ranks in Congress will look like in January.

KIBBE: I will boldly predict that there will be more members of what I would call the liberty caucus in the Senate and the House.

LIASSON: Ever since the Tea Party emerged on the scene five years ago, it’s managed to move the Republican Party slowly but steadily to the right, even if its candidates don’t win at the ballot box.

Of course, Sasse is not yet in the Senate — he will need to win in November. And where he might go from the Senate is unclear. A run for the president would seem a stretch, even though Sasse is young and even though we have precedents (arguably not the best) for electing Senators as chief executive. Nebraska is not exactly a state rich with electoral college votes. Maybe he will eventually run for governor of Nebraska, acquire executive experience, and consolidate Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa into one mega-state (imagine the lottery winnings). But since I had no idea Ben had this in him back when he was passing the baton of Modern Reformation to me, I have learned not to underestimate him.


15 thoughts on “My One Chance at an Overnight in the White House

  1. OK, that’s enough for me. For the image that just emerged in my mind of the Duderino (for brevity sake), slouched in his chair at the oval office, discussing (among other weighty matters), how things are in the OPC…

    Vote Sasse!


  2. With the inclusion of Colorado, they could name the so-called super-state Grassland and still be consistent.


  3. …Preferably with the 1976 Psalter Hymnal version of Belgic 36 with the footnote no longer a footnote but a fully integrated part of the text.

    But that may be getting too technical until he actually takes the oath of office.


  4. Many in the Reformed camp would say that having a Reformed man with vast political power but with 2K convictions is akin to being a man with really attractive nipples.


  5. Dan, good catch. The dissertation only won the prize of Yale’s history department. But if you say something that departs from the received historiography — as if Ms. Posner had mastered the field — then you are nostalgic:

    Sasse’s nostalgia for grassroots impulses lead him to pinpoint the religious right’s rise before Reagan. It was Nixon, not Reagan, Sasse argues, who brought political vitality to the religious right as a grassroots movement, emphasizing a “cleavage” between the religious and the irreligious, and leaning on the support of the evangelist Billy Graham to burnish his credentials. The GOP didn’t win over working class white voters by opposing civil rights and abortion, according to Sasse, but by highlighting a clash between religion and secularism. It wasn’t Reagan who turned the tide of white evangelicals to the Republican Party, but Nixon. Evangelicals didn’t become more prominent in the public square because of Reagan’s presidency, and their storied role in his election, but in the rise of “entrepreneurial” evangelicalism and the explosion of para-church structures, which “remade the experience of lived religion for countless lay Protestants.”

    Leave out the speculation about Sasse’s allegiances in this study, and you actually have a good piece of scholarship on the religious right before the religious right. And I do know Ben well enough personally to declare that he is not nostalgic for that civil religion (even if he has to appeal to it to win in the GOP).


  6. DGH, one of the formative experiences of my life was RMN’s 1970 appearance at a Billy Graham Crusade at Neyland Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee. I was one of the hundred or so anti-Vietnam war protesters in attendance. A dozen or so of us (not me) were arrested. Ever since that day, I have viewed most evangelicals as useful idiots for the GOP. (This gets complicated as I am a rock ribbed Republican, and I am happy to accept support from anybody.)
    So, I clearly agree with Sasse’s point about the pre-Reagan (and pre-Carter) roots of the so-called religious right. I’m not sure how important O’Hare was in the picture as opposed to folks who were more inspired to get involved in politics because of their fear of Communism.


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