Dr. Sasse is roving Nebraska in his RV, Chevy Chase/Family Vacation style. Ben is raising big money along the way and seems to have caught the eye of conservative money guys. His Senate candidacy is already well on track and the battle has only just begun. I like the odds of Ben Sasse grabbing a conservative seat in the Senate. Here at National Review, you get a front row seat on Ben’s forward motion.
The 41-year-old Benjamin Eric Sasse is a fifth-generation Nebraskan, a fact that he’s eager to point out because he’s spent most of his adult life away from the Cornhusker State. His stump speeches often begin with a reference to family reunions near Beatrice, a farming town that is also the site of the Homestead National Monument, honoring the Homestead Act of 1862. “It was one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history,” says Sasse of the law that put 270 million acres of public land into private hands. “It was only a page and a half long.” The Affordable Care Act requires about a dozen pages just to get through its table of contents.
After growing up in Fremont, where he was the high-school valedictorian, Sasse left for Harvard: “Not because of superior academics, but because of inferior athletics,” he jokes. He wrestled for two years and specialized in head-butting his opponents. Sasse has a long scar at the top of his forehead, along his hairline, from falling off a hayloft as a boy. “I have no feeling there,” he says. “It gave me a small advantage.” He left the wrestling team to spend his junior year abroad, and then earned a degree in government. Next came an itinerant career in business consulting, combining full-time employment with full-time study. He roamed the country, working with clients such as Ameritech and Northwest Airlines, while he also pursued a master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and then a Ph.D. in history from Yale. His dissertation, on populist conservatism from the 1950s to the 1970s, won a pair of prestigious campus prizes. “He’s insanely disciplined and incredibly hard-working,” says Will Inboden, a University of Texas professor who lived across the street from Sasse when they were graduate students at Yale. “It’s amazing how much he did.” The virtue of work is a constant theme in Sasse’s speeches and conversation. “Work is where meaning is,” he says. “I don’t know how capitalism and America function if people work to get beyond working, just so they can get to leisure.” One of his favorite recent books is Coming Apart, by Charles Murray, especially for its section on the importance of industriousness.