Why Ben Sasse garners hostility from both Trump loyalists and liberals in academia

Why Ben Sasse garners hostility from both Trump loyalists and liberals in academia

In early October, the news broke that Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was expected to resign from the U.S. Senate in order to accept a position as president of the University of Florida. It isn’t hard to understand why the conservative GOP senator would want to leave politics for academia; a long list of MAGA Republicans deeply resent the 50-year-old Sasse for voting “guilty” in former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in February 2021.

Sasse hasn’t been a full-fledged Never Trumper the way that attorney George Conway, The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough or Washington Post columnist Max Boot have been full-fledged Never Trumpers. But Sasse has been highly critical of Trump at times, and after the 2020 presidential election, he rejected the Big Lie and acknowledged that Joe Biden won the election fairly.

In his October 14 column, liberal Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman describes Sasse as someone who is encountering hostility from liberals in academia on one hand and far-right Trump loyalists on the other.

READ MORE:'Fake RINO': Donald Trump bitterly swipes at pro-impeachment conviction GOP Senator Ben Sasse

“Trump’s lickspittles and cronies get presidential pardons, lucrative lobbying gigs and the party’s nomination for offices at all levels,” Waldman observes. “Sasse, who tried hard to position himself as a Trump skeptic, gets controversy and legions of young people chanting, ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Ben Sasse has got to go!’…. When he went to Gainesville on Monday to meet with faculty, staff and students, he was met with hundreds of angry protesters, who disrupted meetings and eventually left him fleeing in a police vehicle.”

Waldman continues, “They had a variety of objections, especially involving Sasse’s positions on LGBTQ rights and climate change. But they also have another set of grievances, ones involving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a Trump imitator for whom Florida universities such as this one have been among the tools he uses to fight his enemies and serve his ambitions.”

Waldman notes that DeSantis has “created an atmosphere in which students and faculty” in Florida “quite reasonably see themselves as under siege from a right-wing state government.”

“Add in the life-or-death partisanship of our current era, and when a conservative but Trump-hesitant Republican senator was announced as their likely next president, they refused to tolerate it,” Waldman writes. “Over the past few years, Sasse no doubt saw what happened to people like his former Senate colleague Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was full-throated in his criticism of Trump and then decided he could not win the next Republican primary (and) stepped down after a single term. Sasse didn’t want to go quite that far.”

READ MORE: Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse to resign

Sasse, Waldman points out, “was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial,” but he is a member of a party that “is as firmly committed to Trump as ever.”

“Because so much of the GOP was invested in Trump,” Waldman writes, “it was in its interest to make sure no one would suffer from the moral stain of their connection to him. And had Sasse wanted a think tank sinecure or some corporate board seats, no one would have protested. But he tried to step back into academia, where liberals have plenty of power. All of which shows that while Trump contaminates everything he touches, the irony is that the more you were willing to drink his Kool-Aid, the less damage that contamination did to you. The Republicans facing the biggest consequences are the people like Sasse who didn’t really want to be a part of it.”

READ MORE: Republican Ben Sasse slams GOP lawmakers’ ridiculous antics during SCOTUS justice nominee hearings

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