Draft of a speech for Senator Ben Sasse:
My fellow Americans: My name is Ben Sasse, Republican Senator from the beautiful state of Nebraska, and I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States in 2020. Our nation is in deep crisis, a distinctly un-American crisis, in which our finest attributes, those exceptional qualities that we have brought into the world for so many decades, are now buried in an avalanche of hostile rhetoric and the actions precipitated by that rhetoric. You have all heard the old saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Well, our major accomplishment the past ten years has been to disprove that accepted wisdom.
I am an historian. I was a college professor and a college president. For all who are, at this very moment, disdaining the fact that I have college degrees, belittling my academic background, and about to reject the ideas you will hear in the next few minutes, you are dead wrong. This nation needs to be smart, well-educated, perceptive, aware of the historical events that have shaped the fate of other nations, and unafraid of science. Get over your fear of the facts, ladies and gentlemen; get over your fear of research into our most pressing problems and the data that research provides; get over your fear of those whose circumstances of birth have provided them with adequate schooling; and get over your fear of science and technology because this nation’s economy requires it.
A nation does not become great by endorsing ignorance and fear. A nation becomes great by erasing ignorance and fear. A nation becomes great by acting on the basis of knowledge, not political rhetoric that stirs up deep-seated passions, including hatred and fear. A nation becomes great by acknowledging its problems and addressing them in ways that empower as many of its citizens as possible. America has the capacity, the human resources, and the natural resources, to be a model for the rest of humanity around the world. My goal is to tap those resources. My goal is to bring the American dream home to all our people, not just those at the higher economic levels of society.
If I have learned anything from being an historian, it is that nations in which personal income becomes increasingly unequal do not survive. Income inequality is our most pressing national problem, and it is the one I will work very hard to solve. Your taxes pay for the things that only governments can provide: transportation systems, educational systems, military preparedness, law enforcement, and the cultural institutions that sustain our humanity, and yes, I include the arts in that last category. My goal as President is to ensure that we are all fairly taxed, and in a way that maximizes the disposable income of those now struggling economically. Lower income families spend a vastly larger portion of their financial resources on basics: food, shelter, transportation to jobs, and clothing, than do those who are more fortunate. In an America that is truly great, these families are saving for the future, not struggling to put even a peanut butter sandwich in their children’s lunch boxes.
The real question facing the United States of America is how we solve this most pressing problem of unequal income, but at the same time retain our respect for the enterprising minds so characteristic of our nation and especially our business community. We already have income distribution experiments showing us that money funneled into the hands of those in the higher economic classes does not trickle down into the lower economic classes, and does not recirculate into the national economy in a way that benefits all. My neighboring state of Kansas has demonstrated this quite convincingly, and that state’s elected representatives have finally recognized what Kansas policies taught them and acted accordingly to save schools and the state’s infrastructure.
I do not propose over-taxing the more fortunate. I am not going to simplify an exceedingly complex problem by yelling “tax the rich!” I do not propose a socialist society. I honestly believe that any American ought to be able to make a fortune through his or her talents and entrepreneurial skills. Nor am I going to try to buy your votes by giving away free stuff like college tuition. But I do propose a serious consideration of all possible ways to increase the buying power of those who are currently struggling, and to open the doors of economic opportunity for those eager and willing to step through them. I want Americans out there in American cities and towns buying goods and services with money earned, with adequate wages paid, and I want Americans sending their children to good schools that provide education so that we as a nation can meet global challenges of next century with intelligence, rationality, and dignity.
If you have not figured it out by now, I’ll remind you of this fundamental principle: a nation that is sick, poor, and uneducated cannot be made great, now or again, by political rhetoric. A nation that is sick, poor, and uneducated cannot be made great by actions that make the fortunate even more fortunate at the expense of those locked in a cycle of poverty and illness. A nation that is sick, poor, and uneducated cannot sustain a military establishment capable of defending its shores. And a nation that is sick, poor, and uneducated cannot compete with those nations that are healthy, wealthy, and wise, on either the social or economic fronts. My fellow Republicans have simply failed to acknowledge this fundamental principle. My goal is to help them remember what they learned in college, namely, that when statistics that are readily available to the general public tell us that millions of our citizens are sick, poor, and uneducated, we cannot be a great nation until that problem is fixed.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected in part because of his idea that there was a missile gap, a significant difference between the intercontinental ballistic missiles in American silos vs. those in Soviet silos. My fellow Americans, I’m going to draw an analogy: we now have a massive credibility gap that is destroying our ability to engage other nations in ways that are of benefit to our citizens. I am a registered Republican. It is now time for us all to recognize what has become so glaringly obvious to so many of my colleagues in the political arena, namely that we need an American president who speaks the truth as we know it to the American public.
We need an American president who is comfortable with American citizens voting, regardless of the color of their skin or the derivation of their last names. We need an American president who is not afraid to admit that our incarceration rate is shameful and that our prison system is among the most brutal in the world, producing more criminals than productive citizens. We need an American president who is serious about immigration, who will find a way to help American agriculture through a rational system that provides guest workers. And we need an American president who does not take smug satisfaction in sending American youth to be killed and maimed in foreign interventions that are not in our national interests.
I don’t promise to be a miracle worker. I don’t promise to solve all of our nation’s problems in my first hundred days in office. I do promise to be honest, to rely on honest and well-informed people, to surround myself with experts instead of cronies, to freely admit the cause and sources of our most pressing problems, and I do promise to learn what has worked to make life better for citizens in various parts of this country, and learn what has not worked, and act on the basis of valid information rather than my own personal insecurities.
Yes, I am running for president of the United States. In the coming weeks and months, I will put forth some ideas that may seem strange coming from a Republican, but please remember that I am focusing on our problems and the difficult task of solving them. I ask your help in this daunting task, but I also ask for your understanding, that unless we both recognize and attack our problems of poverty, sickness, and education, we will never be great again and we will end up losing all that has made us the envy of the world for so long.