On a day when Donald Trump took to CNN and refused to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, and behaved as though he was clueless as to who David Duke was, Ben Sasse penned an open letter to supporters of Donald Trump. The letter gained the young Senator a good deal of publicity, but it also garnered him a great deal of rebuke.

Please understand: I’m not an establishment Republican, and I will never support Hillary Clinton. I’m a movement conservative who was elected over the objections of the GOP establishment. My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them. I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.

The Nebraska politician ended his sobering letter with the following:

Conservatives understand that all men are created equal and made in the image of God, but also that government must be limited so that fallen men do not wield too much power. A presidential candidate who boasts about what he’ll do during his “reign” and refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.

TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT

Thank you for listening. While I recognize that we disagree about how to make America great again, we agree that this should be our goal. We need more people engaged in the civic life of our country—not fewer. I genuinely appreciate how much many of you care about this country, and that you are demanding something different from Washington. I’m going to keep doing the same thing.

But I can’t support Donald Trump.

In May, a few months after his initial statement, Ben Sasse wrote another open letter – but this time to majority America.

With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose. Why are we confined to these two terrible options? This is America. If both choices stink, we reject them and go bigger. That’s what we do.

Remember: our Founders didn’t want entrenched political parties. So why should we accept this terrible choice?

He has since continued to hold Trump accountable for his lack of policy, as well as lack of good character. 

Even in the midst of Trump supporters going on a social media rampage, and being rebuked by party loyalists, Ben Sasse has stood his ground. Now, I tend to protect myself from being disappointed in politicians by remaining realistic. However unbecoming it may be after such a display of upstanding character – even going so far as to label Trump a “megalomaniac strongman” back in December – Ben Sasse could change his mind, as politicians frequently do. I sincerely doubt he’ll go that route after being such a persistent champion of conservative principles, but this entire election has become a monotonous game of pundits, bloggers, and journalists being forced to dine on their own words in the wake of austere disappointment.

In the opposite corner we have Marco Rubio, my candidate of choice from day one, who has now offered his support to the GOP – reiterating that he’ll cast his vote for Donald Trump come November. Many pundits and followers have spoken out against that decision, while others have instead chosen to make themselves feel better about their favorite politician by incessantly repeating a laundry list of empty excuses.

Last Friday, I had a short interaction with the man I had consistently supported over the last year.

Side note: To say that supporting a man with the highest disapproval rating in the GOP will help down ticket candidates is like saying that behaving like an obnoxious – “Dude, I just crushed a beer can on my forehead” – frat boy will make all of the responsible single women line up to date you. It’s not going to work, and all you’re doing is attaching Trump’s narrative to the legitimately conservative principles of many down ticket Republicans; it’s a battle of stereotypes vs. ideology, and in the end Trump’s narrative will prevail, painting the GOP – as a whole – with his damaging rhetoric.

Our exchange ended without me receiving any answers. Why is he using the ACA as a reason to support Trump while acknowledging that Trump is an advocate for even worse systems of government run healthcare? Rubio had a chance to answer, but he didn’t.

This is a night and day change from the Marco Rubio who campaigned on the back of the #NeverTrump phenomenon.

RubioNeverTrump

Photo Credit: ibtimes.com

Now, many excuse this by saying that, despite his #NeverTrump ideals on the campaign trail (or need of a dictionary for the word “never”), Marco has always said that he’d support the nominee. In my case, I assumed better and believed that once the primary – and the ridiculous pledge – were an issue of the past, Marco Rubio would stand by all of the facts that he himself presented and refuse to support Trump.

(As noted here, I find the “I made a promise” excuse to be incredibly weak. More times than not, breaking a promise is not morally relevant, but sometimes keeping a promise fails to be morally permissible.)

Philip Klein said it well:

For all of Rubio’s rhetoric about responsible leadership, he’s now willing to embrace a demagogue just because that demagogue has an ‘R’ next to his name.

The point in all of this is that Marco Rubio stood on principle, and while he hasn’t completely backed away from his conservative roots, he has indeed given in. He may believe that he is making the right choice for the country, and his career for that matter, but to believe that this is anything except surrender is foolish. Additionally, for him – or anyone else – to pretend as though it is merely a difference in policy that stands between Rubio and Trump is an insult to our intelligence.

In the end, I agree with the Marco Rubio I supported not so long ago:

There is going to be a reckoning here. I don’t know if it’s going to happen before this election or after this election, but there’s going to come a moment where people in the conservative movement who are supporting Donald Trump are going to stop and say, My God, what have we done? What have we done?

I believe that day will come for Rubio in 2020 when people like myself are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into a campaign for someone like Ben Sasse instead. (Petition: Draft Ben Sasse for 2020) While I will always respect Marco Rubio, and even find it easy to vote for him if the opportunity arises, he has lost the right to be a revered man of principle.

Rubio has said multiple times that he tried to defeat Trump, that he did his best in the primaries to stop him from blanketing the conservative movement with the nationalist, racist, and sexist ideals of an egomaniac who has the power to utterly destroy. I agree, Marco tried. But Marco’s 2016 election legacy won’t be that he tried, it will be that when his own agenda failed he waved the white flag. While many refuse to fault him for this, and even I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in his shoes, I will not apologize for expecting more.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a rock.” When the dust settles we will be in search of leaders who, when faced with career suicide, alienation, and the label of “traitor,” chose to put their principles above party loyalty. As of right now, that list is short, and only one of the men discussed in this piece happens to be on it.

I believe Marco is a good man, I believe he is an asset to conservatism, and one of the most honest and decent men in politics. I just no longer believe that he is the hero we need.


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