U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaking at a Story County GOP Dinner in Nevada, IA
Photo Credit: Shane Vander Hart

(Nevada, IA) U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) wasn’t interested in focusing on politics when he spoke at the Story County GOP’s Judge Joseph Story Dinner.

He noted the greatest problems that Americans face are not partisan ones. “Republicans and Democrats are not interesting enough to solve our biggest problems,” he said.

However, the junior Senator from Nebraska visited Iowa amidst a political controversy not of his making. Earlier, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, Jeff Kaufmann, said during President Donald Trump’s rally in Cedar Rapids, IA that Sasse was not welcome in the state. Sasse did not support Trump during the campaign which angered some Republicans in the state.

Sasse in Nevada did not mention Trump or the elections during his remarks, and the controversy was good for ticket sales Story County GOP Co-Chair Jeff Ortiz told Caffeinated Thoughts. Approximately 200 people filled Gatherings to hear Sasse providing their largest attendance in the history of the dinner.

“We are really thrilled with the turnout tonight, we had a full house, this is one of our largest fundraisers with a great line-up of speakers with Senator Sasse, the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and it is great to see the support we are building here locally for Story County Republicans,” Brett Barker, Story County GOP Chair, said after the event.

Sasse was not asked about his stance during the presidential election either, and he was well-received by those in attendance.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman told Caffeinated Thoughts she read about Sasse before the event and after listening to his speech she said, “he did not disappoint.”

“How often do you hear a politician give a speech about how the least important thing they do is be a politician. That’s amazing. I’ve never heard that before. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve never heard a politician say that politics is the least important thing I do,” Ryan Frederick, a former member of the Iowa Republican State Central Committee, shared with Caffeinated Thoughts.

“I thought he was very positive and upbeat, a breath of fresh air,” Patti Brown, Director of the Iowa Policy Institute and Republican activist, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

Some have speculated that Sasse may challenge Trump in 2020. The reason he was in Iowa and able to speak at the dinner had nothing to do with politics. Sasse lost a bet with a journalist over the outcome of the Iowa Hawkeyes – Nebraska Cornhuskers football game. The Huskers lost, so Sasse had to drive an Uber in Iowa wearing Hawkeye gear to pay his debt which he did Friday night after the Story County event in Des Moines.

His oldest two children were participating in a triathlon in the Des Moines area this weekend as well.

Sasse said that our nation faces serious challenges, but he was optimistic because the United States “is the most extraordinary nation in the history of the world.”

“When we say American exceptionalism it means something that is precise and contrary to what our last President said it isn’t something you say yes to and then say ‘well I believe in American exceptionalism probably the way Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism or Brits believe in British exceptionalism,'” said said at the start of his remarks.

“A claim about American exceptionalism and imbuing your kids, our students, and the rising generation with the sense of what is exceptional about America is not, in any way, an ethnic claim. It is not a claim about the superiority of Americans individually, morally than other people on the earth. It is not some sort of tribal or parochial claim. It is a historical acknowledgment about something that we celebrated (on July 4th),” Sasse added.

“241 years ago at the Declaration of Independence and in the course of the next 11, 12, 13 years, there was a big national wrestling with what would it mean to form a country that is based on an idea?” Sasse stated.

“America is a creedal nation,” he said.

“Government is limited and our natural rights are limitless, that is what America means. It is an idea. It is an extraordinary thing, and we have to do the hard work of tending to that and passing it on to the next generation,” he said after discussing the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

He said Washington, DC was never meant to be the center of America.

“Fundamentally, America is not about Washington, DC. The center of America is not the place where professional, full-time politicians go to get their paychecks,” he added.

He said it is reasonable for Americans to be confused by that when five of the seven richest counties in the United States ring Washington, DC.

“We are consolidating more and more of our power and more and more of the national conversation in Washington, DC. That will not serve us well. That is not what America was intended to do. The most fundamental things about America are associational, relational, they are in Nevada. They are in Ames and they are in Iowa City. The center of the world is supposed to be Fremont, Nebraska. It is supposed to be the place where you raise your kids, where you worship, where you start a small business, where you join the Rotary Club, where you volunteer in the Little League and volunteer fire department. That’s the center of the world because the things that actually make people happy are the things that you build, the things that you invest in, the things that you love. What matters in life, ultimately, are your habits, and your loves,” he said.

“The problem is we are seeing a hollowing out of local communities at the same time we are trying to politicize all national conversation. So people feel more and more disconnected from the places they are from,” Sasse added.

Politics is not the answer he noted.

“We have got huge generational challenges before us and we are not talking about those big challenges. Some of them are political, some of them have a political component, but most of what is really important in life is local. And most of the really big challenges we face are way upstream from politics,” he noted.

He said he ran for office to displace people who might be “addicted to politics.”

“I don’t think America can work well if you have a whole bunch of people trying to be in public servant roles that think Washington is the center of the world, think that government might be the author of your rights, and have a ‘three cheers for government’ view of the world,” Sasse stated.

“Government is important, it is necessary, but it is just a means to the things that are really important. So most of what we worry about, most of what we think about, most of what we invest our hopes and our dreams in, shouldn’t be about politics,” he said.

“Most of the really big problems we face right now really aren’t Republican vs. Democrat because neither of these parties are actually that intersting,” Sasse asserted.

He said he was happy to identify as a Republican because of what it historically stood for.

“What this party is founded on is really, really special stuff and yet none of us should have that much of our identity invested in a political party because the more important titles that you bear are not Republican,” he said.

He noted all of the titles and hats he wears that come before a Republican identity – Dad, neighbor, Christian, American, Nebraskan and Christian.

“I am proud to be a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln, but only if the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party, understands that the only way you can be a really good Republican is by wanting to be a great American first. Because fundamentally the challenges we face together are much bigger than the policy fights that we are going to have,” he stated.

Watch his entire remarks and Q&A session below:

Also watch remarks by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg below:

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