The Corner

Politics & Policy

An Adult among Us

Ben Sasse, as you know, is a senator from Nebraska. He is also a scholar — a historian, who earned his Ph.D. at Yale. Before entering politics, he was a college president.

He will write, or has written, a book that I look forward to reading. It will appear in May 2017, from St. Martin’s Press. The book is called “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance.” The book is about “the increasing difficulty our young people are having in making the transition to adulthood.”

That line is from publicity material, and I will quote some more. The author’s

concerns about perpetual adolescence — and the idea for this book — flow from his first days as a college president talking to kids finishing high school. He was surprised and troubled by his students’ passivity: their seeming inability to take initiative and solve problems without adult help. While acknowledging the role of frequently cited culprits such as well-meaning but misguided helicopter parenting and mind-numbing addiction to video games, phones, and devices, he believes the root problem is much bigger and lies with a culture that has lost touch with the shared traditions and rituals that have helped Americans transition to adulthood for most of our history. In short, we’ve lost a shared sense of what becoming an adult entails. Our kids aren’t growing up because we’re no longer showing them how.

Sounds true. Sounds interesting and important, at a minimum.

Ben Sasse is an unusual guy. Almost alone in the Republican party, he has stood against Trump and Trumpism. Last May at its convention, the Nebraska GOP passed a resolution aimed at rebuking him. Here was the headline at Breitbart (whose leader would soon become CEO of the Trump campaign): “Nebraska GOP Convention Humiliates Ben Sasse with Crushing 400 to 8 Reprimand.” As some of us see it, it is Republicans, and conservatives, who have humiliated themselves, in their embrace of Trump.

It could be that Sasse will pay a political price for his stance — maybe the loss of his Senate seat. It could be that he will be politically rewarded. My sense is, he does not care overmuch, one way or the other. He does care about saying what he thinks. And there is plenty he could do, outside the electoral arena.

Like write books. Again, I look forward to getting my hands on The Vanishing American Adult.

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