Sasse Says GOP Needs To Offer More Than Trumpism

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) listens during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on Capitol Hill on October 31, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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February 16, 2021 3:48 p.m.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict ex-President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial, asserted on Tuesday that the GOP needs to move past the former president in the wake of Trump supporters’ deadly assault on the Capitol last month — even though the party has shown little interest in doing so.

Sasse told NPR that the GOP “surely appears” to still be the party of Trump “if you look at polling in the short-term.”

And now the party must choose between “conservatism” and “short-term-ism,” according to the Republican senator.

“I think it’s important to give a frank assessment of where the party of Lincoln and Reagan is right now,” Sasse said. “I think there’s a whole bunch of stuff the party of Lincoln and Reagan needs to do to persuade people we have a 2030 agenda, not a 20-minute Twitter agenda.”

He described himself as “a very conservative guy” but “pretty independent-minded.”

The senator noted a “move” at county and state levels to “have the Republican Party focus, even more, on the personality of Donald Trump.”

“And I don’t think that’s healthy,” he said.

So far the GOP has shown little indication of divorcing itself from Trump: Sasse’s remarks come as various state GOP committees mete out punishments to the senators who broke from the party and voted to convict Trump as 43 Republican senators acquitted him.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have been censured by the North Carolina and Louisiana GOP respectively, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are facing the same backlash from their state Republican Party chapters.

On Tuesday, North Carolina Republican Party chair Michael Whatley refused to acknowledge the fact that Trump had fomented the insurrection at all.

“I think the responsibility lies with those people who broke the law, who attacked the Capitol, who attacked those police officers and caused the violence and mayhem, which is completely reprehensible and unjustifiable,” he told CNN.

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