Last weekend, Sen. Ben Sasse responded to a rebuke by the Nebraska Republican Party by noting that “Most Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude.” Sasse is right about the weird worship — a golden Trump statue was paraded around the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando a day later to prove the point. But Sasse is also correct that the Nebraska GOP is playing a losing hand if they prefer to be the party of someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene rather than Ben Sasse.
Following a career of military service culminating as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell wrote a book containing lessons he learned in various commands and at the Pentagon — “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.” One of those lessons was, “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.”
In the past four years, we Republicans have gone all in on Trump and Trumpism. The result? A blowout Biden election victory, winning the popular vote by 7 million votes and the Electoral College by 74. Democrats now control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in a decade. It’s no wonder. COVID did not “within a couple of days (go) down to close to zero,” President Trump’s phone call to Ukraine was not “perfect,” and the domestic terrorists who stormed the (our) Capitol were not in fact “great patriots.”
Republicans need to take Colin Powell’s advice and separate their egos from Trumpism. It’s over. Let’s put a fork in it.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s a losing proposition. November’s election results reflected Nebraska’s weariness of Trump. Sure, he won the state with 556,846 votes. But that was far fewer votes than Republicans received in Senate (583,507) and U.S. House elections (585,234). The Trump base is loud, strong, reinforced by a social media echo chamber, and they continue to be feared and wooed by Republican politicians. But the trade-off is a failure to attract large and growing demographic groups who overwhelmingly disapprove of the former president: 18-34 year-olds, women, independents, Hispanics, and African Americans, among others. For Republicans, this is a bad problem getting worse.
The alternative is a timely pivot for the party, back to our roots. Let’s go back to talking about fiscal conservatism and limited government. Let’s go back to judicial restraint and preservation of our shared values. Let’s go back to supporting the military, especially those who have been captured, wounded or paid the ultimate sacrifice. And speaking of which, let’s go back to the spirit of John McCain, who at a town hall confronted a woman who said that his opponent was an untrustworthy Arab.
“No, ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man (and) citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not (an Arab).” Decency, I imagine, will have broad appeal to Nebraskans.
But if conservatism means not changing, we need to abandon that too. Let’s reach across the aisle more. Let’s not pretend that systemic racism isn’t real or that all Nebraskans don’t deserve affordable housing and health care (spoiler alert: it is, and we do.) Let’s finally admit that not even Warren Buffet thinks Warren Buffet should be in a lower tax bracket than his employees. Let’s exercise the personal freedom we Republicans value to love our neighbor and take care of the most vulnerable among us.
Above all, let’s abandon for-profit pseudo-news and get to know people who have views different from our own. In other words, let’s strive to Make the Truth Great Again.
For the sake of our party, our state, our country and our values, we Republicans need to turn away from Trump and back to our values and the principles of patriotism and conservatism.
Jay Jackson is an Omaha attorney, a military veteran with multiple overseas deployments, and a Republican.