Ben Sasse, asked what the GOP stands for: "I don't know"

Ben Sasse, asked what the GOP stands for: "I don't know"

He should have a better answer than that by now. The GOP is pro-Trump, anti-left, and anti-media. That’s it. That’s why it’d be so much fun, as pure political sport, if Trump came out in favor of single-payer. It would pit the right’s top imperative, supporting Trump in all things, against its aching desire to thwart the left on its fondest wish.

In fairness to Sasse, I think the interviewer was asking him which policies the GOP stands for. His response is still wrong — the correct answer is “tax cuts” and pretty much nothing else apart from some platitudes about privatization, individual choice, etc. But he gave the politic response, and for that we must not fault him.

These days, he’s a microcosm of many Republicans in the age of Trump — still holding close to his beliefs (whether school choice or international trade deals), wary of how the man in the Oval Office will rewrite the party’s genetic code, trying to keep some distance without making a big show of it…

Asked what the GOP stands for, he says, “I don’t know.”

“Quit lying to the voters. Tell the truth about where we are in economic history, and admit that technology and, ultimately, automation that goes all the way to machine learning and artificial intelligence is going to accelerate economic change in the world,” he said in the interview.

Sasse thinks the Democratic Party is “fighting 1960s battles,” but he argues his own party “is absolutely nuts” to allow Democrats to own issues like income inequality and flatlining wages.

There are a few cultural policies that remain sacrosanct within the GOP. Gun rights are one; limiting abortion is another. For all of the much-deserved hype about Trump being willing to slaughter his party’s sacred cows, he and his team had a shrewd sense of which lines were and weren’t safe to cross during the primaries. He had free rein to upset Republican orthodoxy on economic policy and foreign policy — so long as he projected general “toughness,” like vowing to “bomb the sh*t” out of ISIS — but if he had been openly irreligious or called for an assault-weapons ban as part of his “law and order” platform, he’d have been in trouble. Even then, he did the bare minimum at times to convince the base that he was on their side. Although that makes me wonder: How much of the support for guns and opposition to abortion is itself largely a reaction to the left’s opposition and support, respectively (and vice versa)? If Democrats went looking for another centrist Bill-Clinton-type who could compete in the south and came up with someone who strongly supported the Second Amendment, would centrist Republicans suddenly feel freer to call for tighter gun regulations?

You can listen to Sasse’s interview here. The bit about the GOP comes at 56:00, but for a synopsis of his key themes, I recommend the op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal last month. Sasse knows his conservative boilerplate but what makes him interesting is his attentiveness to the economic disruption that’s coming from artificial intelligence and automation. There’s a lot more “American carnage” in the pipeline and elections will be won or lost depending upon who has the smarter answers to it. Tax cuts might not be enough, I dare say.

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