In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) who will be leaving the U.S. Senate on Jan. 9 to become president of the University of Florida, expressed his extreme disgust at the "tribalism" in politics that has been fostered during the Donald Trump years by "nut jobs" on both sides of the aisle.
Sasse, who on Feb 13, 2021, voted to convict Trump over the Jan 6 insurrection that led to the former president ripping into him, gave a preview of his latest comments at that time of his vote when he wrote in a statement, "Tribalism is a hell of a drug, but our oath to the Constitution means we’re constrained to the facts."
In that vein, as he prepares to walk away, he blistered the state of affairs that has deadlocked the country as extremists suck up all the oxygen with their angry rants that get a disproportionate amount of attention.
In his op-ed, he wrote, "The zealots thrive in the chaos of the current moment," before adding, "We are living in a disrupted age."
"We know less about our neighbors and more about the viral nut jobs who reinforce our polarized political opinions," he observed. "Social media, cable television and click-bait news amplify the angriest voices. This is a casino business model, trying to captivate audiences instead of informing them. Social algorithms run on rage. Good-faith arguments don’t go viral."
The conservative senator added, "The stupidity of tribalism has made politics primarily about partisan identities, not persuasion or policy. The screamers on the right and left fuel one another. In a nation as big as ours, there is always someone somewhere saying something stupid—but tribalism takes this fact as its lifeblood. And it’s the excuse for otherwise civic-minded Americans to ignore the nuts in their own party and obsess only over the nuts in the other party. We’re tempted to think that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It takes a genuine leader to remind us that most of the time, the enemy of our enemy is still a jackass."
He then pointed out that Americans want and demand more from public officials, and pinned the blame on social media and the press.
"The good news is that the American people are bored by this and there’s a huge majority market for something better," he suggested. "Twitter isn’t real life, and cable television doesn’t represent the public. The vast majority of Twitter traffic is driven by less than 2% of the public. According to Pew, less than 6% of Americans generate 99% of political tweets. The programs of Tucker Carlson, Lawrence O’Donnell and Anderson Cooper draw prime-time audiences that sound impressive until you realize that together they account for less than 2% of the public."
Writing, "America can’t do big things if we hate our neighbors," he offered, "Senators will have to acknowledge that a politicized echo chamber is unworthy of the world’s greatest deliberative body. Citizens will have to see that recovery means resisting the temptation to reduce fellow Americans to caricatures of their political affiliations."
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