Ben Sasse on Alabama Senate race: "It feels like this party that I'm a part of has gone post-constitutional"

An interesting bit from Jonah Goldberg’s podcast, The Remnant. Goldberg puts Sasse on the spot by asking whether he’ll be following the lead of his libertarian-ish colleagues in the Senate — Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and most recently Ted Cruz — by endorsing Roy Moore, who’s as far from libertarian as a Republican can get. Sasse won’t give him a straight answer, pleading that he hasn’t followed the race closely, but he’s followed it closely enough to know that Moore thinks Muslims should be barred from holding seats in Congress. That’s a religious test, he notes, which is barred by the Constitution, and he’s not ready for a “post-constitutional” party. Moore, he goes on to say, seems to have little interest in conservatism but instead appeals to a politics of “white-backlash grievance.”

I’m going to take that as a no, that he’s not planning to endorse Moore.

Most Republicans will, though. The latest: John Cornyn, the number two man in the Senate. Cornyn was quizzed by reporters after his endorsement today about Moore’s two most incendiary hobbyhorses, barring Muslims from office and, er, whether he thinks gays should be killed. Hey, says Cornyn, all families have their disagreements.

Brooke Rogers translates that response this way: “Senator, do you agree with your colleague’s statement that wearing blue should be punishable by death?” “Sure. IDK. Is he Republican?”

That treatment of party as analogous to “family” is exactly what’s bothering Sasse in his interview with Goldberg. I’m a Christian first, he says, then a husband, then a father, then an American, then a conservative, and then somewhere way down the list I’m a Republican. There are civic fundamentals that both parties are supposed to agree on, like no religious tests for office, before partisan politics enters the equation but increasingly even those fundamentals are the subject of partisan debate. That’s what he means by “post-constitutional.” You can understand why Cornyn, a party hack and a member of leadership (and, once upon a time, a state supreme court justice), might shrug off the implications of Moore’s belief but what excuse do Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz have? Cruz reminded the media last month that he’s one of the most libertarian members of the Senate while Lee stood up to Democrats badgering Catholic nominees by delivering a lecture on the Senate floor about religious tests himself. Why are “constitutional conservatives” going to bat for Moore when they don’t need to endorse anyone? Lee doesn’t even have the fig leaf, as Cruz does, that he’s up for reelection next year and has to pander to populists.

Cornyn endorsing Moore the day after Flake declares his own small-government vision of the party kaput (at least temporarily) is as stark a statement on where the GOP is right now as you could ask for. Speaking of which, is Flake … thinking of primarying Trump in 2020? He’s been asked about it a lot over the past 36 hours or so and he keeps refusing to rule it out. Hmmmm. Here’s the Sasse interview with Goldberg. The key bit starts at around 19:00.