May 19, 2016

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse Urges Disloyalty

Sasse: Proudly Disloyal!
In an open letter, Republican Senator Ben Sasse, the leader of the anti-Trump Republicans, offers what are, to date, the best arguments for Christians to hand the Presidency to Hillary rather than support the presumptive GOP nominee. I sought the letter out in pursuit of Christian political ideas because his open-borders ally, Russell Moore, trumpets him as someone who "knows the Bible and theology" and "has more integrity and intellect than 99% of Washington politicians put together."  I found his arguments to be an improvement over Moore's racially charged white-American-sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-"dark-skinned-foreigner" [Moore's words] denunciations and unconvincing Mayberry-as-bad-as-Gomorrah equivalences.

Rather than following Moore's demonization of the past and rhetoric of oikophobia, Sasse acknowledges that America has lost something critical: "While I recognize that we disagree about how to make America great again, we agree that this should be our goal." But he charts out a politics of rationalistic disloyalty, (we owe no loyalty to Americans with whom we associate, only to the truth claims of the Constitution), which though immoral is better than Moore's in that it doesn't play pit-a-pat with heresy out of political pique.

Here is Sasse on political parties, introducing his politics of disloyalty:
Now, let’s talk about political parties: parties are just tools to enact the things that we believe. Political parties are not families; they are not religions; they are not nations – they are often not even on the level of sports loyalties. They are just tools. I was not born Republican. I chose this party, for as long as it is useful.
This is a convenient view for a man who wants to break ranks with his party, but it is false. Political parties are associations of people. Christians don't believe that associations of people are tools to be used just as long as useful to me. Associations are ways of relating to people and being in relation with them. Christians relate to people with love and love requires faithfulness and loyalty.

It is close to an essential view of Christian politics and law that legal and political forms do not allow us to derogate from our moral obligations of love to people. Biblical law, the Mosaic law of love, teaches this again and again. No matter what the legal forms or what we have contracted for -- e.g., to take a security interest in someone's cloak or to alienate a man from his land -- we have to treat them with love -- i.e. to return the cloak in the evening so the man is not cold and to treat the sale of land like a lease and return it at the Jubilee.

It is very liberal but very anti-Christian to regard human associations as mere technologies that we can decide to alter, join in and abandon at any time according to our sense of utility. It is very liberal to regard man as capable of disregarding the obligations of love and faithfulness in human living because of our chosen legal forms.

Sasse's arguments for party disloyalty are very strange. "I was not born Republican. I chose this party." What does that have to do with loyalty? A man is not born married to his wife; he chooses to marry her. Does this have anything to do with whether he owes loyalty to her? Indeed, doesn't this specify the kind of loyalty I have - i.e. one for which I have particular personal responsibility. Political parties are personal associations, which is why leaders can betray members. Sasse didn't have to become a Republican party member, but he choose to do so; he has responsibility for his obligations of loyalty. The question is whether he is fulfilling his obligations of loyalty commensurate with such membership. He can't just declare that because he isn't legally bound to support the party nominee that the party is a tool that he can use or not use. The law doesn't require him to stay with his wife and children either, but the relationship he has with his wife and with his party members impose moral obligations beyond those of the law.

It's easy to know that political parties aren't tools because everyone knows that party leaders can betray party members. Parts of a tool cannot betray one another. Sasse argues for this instrumental view of a political party because so many are so angry with him for refusing to support the party's nominee. They feel betrayed by him. He wants to think of the Republican party as something in which betrayal does not exist. But Republicans aren't angry with him or other Republican leaders because a technology broke down. They are angry because open-borders Republicans treated the people like tools, fungible parts to be disposed of and replaced with better or cheaper ones. (This is the essential view of the open-borders crowd; the wheel of government can grind any kind of grain, local wheat or foreign grass, into nourishing flour. Culture means nothing for an American.) They are angry because the party encouraged loyalty, invited loyalty, cultivated loyalty and then betrayed loyalty. They are angry because the Republican leaders aren't loyal. They are all a bunch of Justice Roberts, who encourage the support of Republicans until it is no longer "useful" and then choose no longer to remember their supporters.

We owe everyone with whom we join in a common undertaking duties of loyalty, not just to God, nation and family, as Sasse implies. For example, we owe duties of loyalty to our employers and our friends. Of course, no loyalty is absolute, except to God; all others derive from the nature of the association, which also limits the loyalty. For example, even if we are dealing with a group of friends going out together, it would be disloyal to abandon the group simply because the rest of the group all wanted to go to one's second favorite restaurant instead of one's first preference, but not if the group decided to go to a drug den. Sasse's claim that we owe less loyalty to our fellow political-party members than to the sports teams we watch on T.V. reflects a profound misunderstanding of the moral world. We owe no loyalty to commercial sports teams. We owe at least the basic respect to members of our political party that we would to anyone with whom we agreed to a process for making and implement a decision. Sasse can't squirm out of supporting Trump without showing that the selection of Trump substantially violated the principles of the joint activity that party members agreed to. The responsible time for Sasse to have left the Republican party was when he learned that the GOP did not require its candidates to meet his personal test of "conservatism," not when his candidate lost.


  1. Chico and the ManMay 21, 2016 at 9:25 PM

    This strikes me as useful rhetoric: calling a cuckservarive like Sasse or Matt Walsh disloyal, because they probably pride themselves on being loyal. (Matty Walsh takes his ball and goes home:

  2. Chico and the ManMay 28, 2016 at 8:46 PM

    If government is a "tool" can the discivilized, the low IQ use it? Can they maintain a subway system, manufacture circuit boards? If not, ought'n another "tool" like monarchy be used?

    Sasse only has a hammer: everything looks like a nail.