The news that Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is planning to resign from his position by the end of the year to take over as the president of the University of Florida means that another prominent Republican critic of former President Donald Trump will be stepping off the political stage.
Sasse was one of only seven Republican senators to vote to convict Trump for his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.
“President Trump lied that he ‘won the election by a landslide,’” Sasse said in explaining his vote at the time. “He lied about widespread voter fraud, spreading conspiracy theories despite losing 60 straight court challenges, many of his losses handed down by great judges he nominated.”
At a May rally in Nebraska, Trump went after Sasse, calling him “Little Ben Sasse” and referring to him as a “grandstanding, little-respected senator.”
Sasse also criticized the Trump-led Republican Party in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in June.
“We can either continue to drift as a party that exists as a vehicle for the grievances of the angriest, oldest folks, or we can be the future-focused party of 2030 – with policies centered on the future of work and the future of war,” he said.
In that same speech, he said that the GOP wanted a “strongman daddy figure.” (Sasse didn’t mention Trump but, well, he didn’t have to.)
That speech was seen by many – myself included – as the early rumblings of a possible presidential campaign by Sasse. He had made clear that he didn’t enjoy the Senate – and its glacial pace – and clearly had bigger aspirations.
That Sasse is now preparing to willingly remove himself from the playing field is yet another striking testament to the whole-scale takeover of the Republican Party under Trump.
Of the 17 Republicans – 10 in the House, seven in the Senate – who voted to either impeach or convict Trump last year, no more than six will be returning to Congress in 2023. And several of those remaining Republicans face stiff competition this fall, meaning that number could sink even lower by the time the next Congress rolls around.
Sasse, who won a second term easily in 2020, would not have had to face voters again until 2026.
The Point: Sasse’s departure further thins the group of Republicans who have been willing to disagree with Trump publicly. And the message his leaving sends is unmistakable: There is no room in today’s GOP for anyone who doesn’t agree with Donald Trump 100% of the time.