Sasse goes onto say that “neither political party works” and that both are “enough of a mess that I believe they will come apart.” That’s untrue. Sasse’s GOP is indeed in trouble, both because it’s on the wrong side of the country’s biggest demographic changes and because it’s on the verge of a nominating a man who many party elders despise. But the Democratic Party has rarely been stronger and more united. For all the talk about the divisions between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, 86 percent of Sanders supporters say they’ll support Clinton in the fall. By contrast, only 70 percent of Republicans who voted against Trump in the primaries say they’ll back him. According to an April Pew Research Center poll, 88 percent of Democrats view their party favorably compared to only 68 percent of Republicans. Among Americans as a whole, the Democratic Party’s approval rating exceeds the GOP’s by 12 points.
This isn’t surprising. The Democratic Party has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. From health care to gay rights to the Iran deal, Barack Obama has more successfully implemented his agenda than any Democratic president in a half-century. And polls suggest that Democrats will keep the White House this fall, while likely taking the Senate and potentially even the House. If that’s what Sasse calls party failure, what does he call party success?
Finally, Sasse denounces the two parties for being unable to “even identify the biggest issues we face.” What are those issues? Sasse defines them as “a national security strategy for the age of cyber and jihad,” “balance[ing] our budget,” “empowering states and local governments to improve K-12 education,” “retiring career politicians by ending all the incumbency protections” and “protect[ing] First Amendment values in the face of the safe-space movement.”
And he says Clinton and Trump are out of touch? For all their flaws, both presumptive nominees have made stagnant wages the centerpiece of their campaigns. Both have rightly talked about America’s deteriorating infrastructure. Both have talked about immigration. Both have talked about the dislocations caused by trade. Hillary Clinton has also talked about mass incarceration. And she’s emphasized climate change, which could put Miami and New Orleans under water in a decade.
None of these make Sasse’s list of “biggest issues.” Instead, he includes balancing the budget, something many economists consider unnecessary, if not counterproductive. He calls for a national-security strategy for an “age of jihad,” even though China is a vastly more formidable global competitor than ISIS and Americans are more likely to be crushed by their own furniture than to die in a terrorist attack. He also mentions “protect[ing] First Amendment values in the face of the safe-space movement.” Multiple prominent members of Sasse’s party, along with their presumptive presidential nominee, have proposed a religious litmus test for entering the United States. And he thinks the biggest danger to “First Amendment values” is posed by 19-year-olds who want their colleges to outlaw blackface?
Sasse ends his letter with the hashtag #WeCanDoBetter. Yes, we can. Let’s hope he can too.