Congratulations to Ben Sasse, who convincingly won the Republican nomination for the Senate from Nebraska yesterday. His win is being described as a victory for tea partiers, just as Thom Tillis’s win in the Republican Senate primary in North Carolina last week has been called a triumph for the GOP establishment. There is some truth in these descriptions, but the more important truth is this one: Republicans in both states have nominated talented, accomplished, and committed conservatives.
As campaign advisers noted in a memo released last night, Sasse has the markers of both sides of the party’s supposed civil war. He went to Ivy League schools, worked for George W. Bush, and served as chief of staff to a congressman; he also had the endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz and was opposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s aides. To the extent that this race became a Tea Party–vs.–establishment proxy war, it was largely because of McConnell’s ham-handed intervention. Sasse, to his credit, has been magnanimous, saying he is willing to work with McConnell.
Most Republican voters in Nebraska are, however, interested in more important matters than who gets along in the cloakroom: For example, what are we going to do about Obamacare? Sasse is someone who understands that we need to replace that law, and who campaigned on his own proposal to remedy what’s wrong in health-care policy. What North Carolina and Nebraska both demonstrate is that any faction of the party can win a nomination if it puts up strong candidates who can explain how they will advance the conservative cause. If our guns are pointed in the same direction, there is no need for a civil war.