Perspective

The Passion of Ben Sasse

While drinking my morning coffee and perusing Twitter on Thursday, I came across a remarkable post, penned by the Junior Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse:


The tweet was almost too perfect. A Midwestern “Never Trump” Republican blaming Russians for the NFL-Anthem controversy. First, they stole our democracy, now our football? Is nothing sacred? The “American vs. American fighting” was equally silly, a corollary to the conservative mantra “I don’t see race—I just see Americans.

I jumped on it, of course.


Pretty tame stuff. But the Senator was triggered, and he launched into a tweet storm:


By the end, Sasse had devolved into incoherent insults, mixing and matching various chestnuts:


Apparently, I’m a unimportant loser and wimp, over whom a senator-cum-presidential-hopeful is obsessing . . . I should stop taking millions from the Kremlin, so I can finally move out of my mom’s place and get a job . . . I don’t “get America,” but then I get America all too well, since I’m responsible for the ongoing racial strife . . . Mom’s basement . . . pajama boy!! . . . the Russians!!! . . . literally Hitler!!!! . . . If only Sasse had dropped “tentacle porn” he could have won Bingo.

Sasse’s tweets quickly became a news item, requiring, among various conservative groupie outlets, the use of ALL CAPS: “Ben Sasse Just Owned Richard Spencer On Twitter And It Is AWESOME!”

Perhaps Sasse truly owned me—AWESOMELY! Or, perhaps, I struck a sore nerve. Sasse certainly expressed a deep-seated feeling of anger and confusion that seemed as if it had been lingering for a long time. One pictures a solitary, angst-ridden Sasse repeatedly lecturing the walls of his office before finally mustering the courage to publish his thoughts on Twitter.

I was tempted not to respond (and simply return to the Kremlin for my monthly stipend). But that would let this teachable moment go to waste.

America 101

To be fair to Sasse, he’s not your typical political hack. He is a goober, to be sure, but a goober who earnestly believes in something; he even systematized it. You could say Sasse is a meta-goober. The insults are stupid, but the six tweets that make up “America 101” deserve to be read in full, as they amount to a concise summary of what “principled conservatives”—that is, Cucks—hold near and dear. Hillsdale professors and Heritage Foundation scholars have written whole books saying little more than what Sasse articulated in less 1,000 characters.

So here’s “America 101”:

Bending The Knee

Where to begin? A good place is with the Anthem controversy, which sparked the exchange.

What made Sasse’s initial assertion so laughable is that the “Take A Knee” protest hardly required maniacal Soviet agents, preying on innocent Americans, to come about. The Anthem debate is one more chapter in the American saga once known as “The Negro Question.” It is the question of the political and social status of Africans living in a White country: slave or citizen, American or something else.

And this isn’t just a question for White people. It’s one Blacks have been asking themselves for a long time: Can we, as Africans, take part in the pageantry and symbolism of a country that has never really been ours, and which, until very recently, maintained our social and political inferiority? Is assimilation possible? If so, is it desirable? And if not, then what?

Sasse (and Donald Trump, too) can claim the Anthem controversy is “not about race,” but it very much is about race for everyone participating in it. In the words of Colin Kaepernick, who started it all last summer,

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.

Some White football icons, like Tom Brady and Jerry Jones, might attempt to reinterpret the protest by locking arms with Black players and saying the whole thing is about wholesome “team unity.” But they are just as self-deceived as Ben Sasse.

Even to claim that pushback against Kaepernick and the kneelers “isn’t about race” but civic allegiance is begging the real question: for political allegiance is all about race and ethnicity; this holds for every nation in the world, and has intrinsically and explicitly been a part of American history.

American History X

It’s amusing to be lectured by Sasse on the “true” meaning of America and what he calls “Western Heritage,” for he seems to define both by omitting most all of human history. While it’s quaint to say that the West is defined by “see[ing] people not as tribes but as individuals of limitless worth,” I have to ask: What period of time is Sasse actually referring to? Indeed, what world is he living in?

For despite Sasse’s fervent wishes, “racism” is as American as Baseball, as that funny Antifa banner at Fenway Park recently announced.

The greatest Founding fathers were slave holders, who never considered Africans as “individuals of limitless worth,” not to mention fellow citizens included in the magical phase “All Men Are Created Equal.” In The Federalist (No. 2), John Jay thanked “Providence,” not for giving us America as a rootless platform for the world, but because She granted

this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

Jay was not referring just to White people or even White Christians; he was referring to Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and Europeans similarly endowed.

The greatest catastrophe in U.S. history, the Civil War, was, again, all about race. It was caused primarily by slavery—or, more to the point, was fought over the Negro Question: the status of a slave-owning aristocracy within the United States, the status of slaves vis-à-vis White labor, and that of potentially freed Africans in a White man’s country.

The conflict is tragic, in the deepest sense of the word, in that Abraham Lincoln—sainted as the “Great Emancipator”—explicitly claimed that he was willing to maintain slavery to save the union and that he desired White supremacy to continue however the conflict might be resolved. As he stated in his famous debate with Stephen Douglas:

[T]here is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

The immigration question, too, has always been about race, even through Hollywood has trained modern Americans to think of it as a centuries-long free-for-all.

The United States pioneered racially based restriction. The first immigration law, the 1790 Naturalization Act, restricted citizenship to “free white persons . . . of good character.” It was only in 1870 that the naturalization process was extended to Africans; then again, this law was an ad hoc response to America’s perplexing Negro Question; other races, most notably the Chinese, were denied the process.

And none of this should be understood as a residue of some bad European past. To the contrary, this racial conception of immigration and naturalization was uniquely American. Race was the basis of citizenship in the new frontier, where sovereign subjugation could no longer be operative. The expansion of the United States as an entity followed the expansion of the White man across the continent—almost always at the expense of other races.

The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act—a major restriction that effectively led to net-neutral immigration throughout the middle of the 20th century—was written “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity.” That should not be confused with “keeping things the same.” The Act, in fact, was designed to preference Nordics, the originally founding population, and not the Irish and Southern Europeans who had flowed into the country following the Civil War.

Speaking on the Act, Representative William Vaile stated that the Czech and the Italian and the Jew came to America, but did not make America:

[T]hey came to this country because it was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched it, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it.

We are determined that they shall not.

I could go on . . . to the pioneering of racial sciences, eugenics, racial segregation, and the re-patriation of African slaves and non-White citizens, all of which are equally “As American As Baseball.” But it’s worth returning my earlier question: What exactly is Senator Sasse referring to when he talks about “Western heritage” or “the real America”?

The answer is that Sasse is referencing a mythic American founding . . . an imagined and useable past . . . one suitable for Sunday school lessons and FOX News holiday specials. Most important, it’s a past that has been coded to adhere to the social, moral, and racial revolutions that occurred since the mid-1960s. In this rosy view, the Founders created a universal state, one based on human rights and suitable for all mankind. “America,” in this view, was a way out of Europe, a way out of history itself, even American history.

The old revolutionary leftist standpoint was to hate the past and seek to create a new future: Option 1: Death to America! Equality now! The old conservative view was to revere the past and seek to maintain it: Option 2: Make America Great Again! By mid-century, there was a new synthesis, in which one could revere the past, while seeking to change the present and future. America’s post-Enlightenment founding documents—the Declaration of Independence in particular—were viewed as the “true” meaning of American history. The Founders (flawed slavers as they were) would be redeemed as subsequent generations would “cash the checks” deposited in 1776, 1789, 1865, and 1964. This formed the basis of Option 3: America Was Always About Equality! (The previous generations just didn’t know it yet.)

This is not to say that there are not real egalitarian—even revolutionarily leveling— ideals within the American founding, resulting from the men present, their challenge to justify a new Republic in the 18th century, and their adoption of contemporaneous political currents. This is also not to say that these egalitarian ideals have not informed American ideology throughout the centuries—even the “racist” political ideas.

The identitarian perspective on this is one of tragedy. It was that “one united people” (Anglo-Saxon Protestants), whom John Jay spoke about, who resonated with the language of the founders, in the positive sense of America as a country of uprightness, self-reliance, and freedom. It was only Whites who could maintain America’s universalist fictions. For other races—and for the degraded White mass—liberty, justice, and equality are simply excuses to turn America into a dumping ground, a place to make a quick buck, or shopping mall on a continental scale.

The Soy Boy

It’s really hard to get mad at Ben Sasse, for it feels like holding a grudge against a child, who knows not what he does or who he is. And he can be partially excused for “not seeing race” in that he was raised in Nebraska in the ‘70s and ‘80s, at a time when the state was 95 percent White. Even today, Nebraska roughly approximates the Nordic America created by the 1924 Immigration Act.

The son of Lutherans, farmers, and manufactures, Sasse grew up weeding Nebraskan soy fields as young man, making him, in more ways than one, the original “soy boy.” I’ve never met Sasse, but I’ve never seen a video or photo of him online in which he didn’t have a doe-eyed and earnest—alternately confused, naïve, and grateful—look on face, like a 9-year-old who’d just received a new bike from Santa Claus.

Ben Sasse, contemplating what it means to be an American
Ben Sasse, the Junior Senator from Awwshucks

With a PhD from Yale, Sasse, no question, has high intelligence. But a man like Sasse truly reveals the limits of mere intelligence. For what’s the point of intelligence if one’s soul remains that of a goofball and pushover? Sasse has apparently written a book about being an adult without really becoming one, for being an adult—and not just a smart soy boy—means putting aside childish things.

One of Sasse’s saddest moments is when he tells me that I would be happier if I simply gave in and believed what he believes. I’m a pretty fun guy . . . but perhaps he’s right? Perhaps I would be “happier” if I clung to his gooey Americanism, much like a dying man clings to rosary beads or a crumpled photo of his sweetheart. But to even offer this advice is to assume that “happiness” is a value. I’ve visited retirement homes, preschools, and facilities for the mentally retarded; in all cases, the constituents seemed exceedingly happy.

Sasse is one of those White Americans who will always refuse to fight back when his people are under threat—and then seek to explain away his meekness as “principled.” The ultimate problem with the cuckservative, as someone related to me on Twitter, is that he wants to protect civilization, but he ultimately believes that going too far to protect civilization is worse than trying to destroy it.

Like a primitive, Sasse is intensely afraid of and reverent toward modern taboos; he’d rather die than be considered “racist” or a heretic on the question of “human rights.” He seeks, desperately, to morally justify the contemporary world, to reassure himself that actually fighting back—or seeking power for his people—would be wicked and wrong.

In this way, my historicization of Sasse’s “America 101” simply won’t make a difference. Because facts won’t make a difference. Sasse isn’t putting forth facts; he’s putting forth faith. He wants to “explain” America to me, but doesn’t offer any reason why anyone should buy into it. “Conservatism” or “Western values” suffice as a shallow person’s replacement for Christianity, just as calling ideas “Nazism” or “un-american” unburdens Sasse of actually thinking through them.

Put another way, Sasse is a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.

Richard Spencer
the authorRichard Spencer
Richard Spencer is American Editor of AltRight.com; he's President of The National Policy Institute and founder of RadixJournal.com.