Sen. Ben Sasse, in a speech last week to a gathering of Christian pastors, went out of his way to criticize the alt-right, a movement that equates American greatness with preserving white Protestant culture.
“American exceptionalism was never a claim about ethnicity. American exceptionalism was never a claim about Americans’ unique anthropology,” Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said at an annual meeting of a group called the Gospel Coalition, in Indianapolis.
“American exceptionalism was an understanding about the historical moment in which the American founding flipped on its head the relationship between rights and government,” said Sasse.
The Harvard- and Yale-educated Sasse said in the middle of a 30-minute speech that America at its founding was unique in its claim that rights were inalienable to each person, and automatic, rather than determined by the whims of government.
“The American founding is a claim that God gives us rights, not government, and government is our secular-shared project to secure those rights. That’s all American exceptionalism means. That’s what Washington used to mean,” Sasse said.
America’s identity is bound up first and foremost in an idea, Sasse said, and not a piece of land or a certain racial group.
The claim that America’s greatness originated or resides in European or white Christian culture has become a central plank to many who have supported President Trump’s political rise.
“The rise of Donald Trump, perhaps the first truly cultural candidate for President since [Pat] Buchanan, suggests grassroots appetite for more robust protection of the Western European and American way of life,” wrote Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari for Breitbart News a year ago in an influential explanation of the movement.
“They [the alt-right] truly believe that multiethnic democracies cannot succeed,” said Ben Shapiro, a…