February 6, 2020

The Political Tragedy of Mitt Romney

The Utah senator’s vote to convict Trump is an example of why he lost in 2012.

With his vote to convict President Donald Trump on one of the two dubious articles of impeachment, Mitt Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president of his own party. He also managed to cement himself as arguably the biggest tragedy in American politics in recent years.

Romney has served his country, including saving the 2002 Winter Olympics while working for free and serving a term as governor of Massachusetts, also forgoing his salary. He twice ran for president, which takes an enormous commitment of time and energy that, in Romney’s case at least, indicates a deep love for the country and a desire to make it better. The same can be said for Trump’s decision to run for the office. Had Romney won in 2008 or 2012, our nation would have been spared all or some of the woeful Barack Obama years.

As we noted in 2016, Romney was right about Trump’s numerous flaws. (If President Trump’s personal life had been closer to Romney’s, the GOP would potentially be in a much better position in the suburbs.) And Romney has been correct about our departure from the principles of the Founders.

That said, despite grasping the problem, Romney is a deeply flawed messenger who is unable to bring himself to do what needs to be done in order to get back to those principles — partly because he has been on both sides of every important issue. Trump, character flaws and his own flip-flopping notwithstanding, has been willing to fight the Left.

Arguably, Romney’s “good guy” persona has rendered him unable to deal with the realities we currently face. In 2012, he was viciously attacked as a tax cheat by Harry Reid and accused of wanting to put African Americans back in chains by Joe Biden. Had a fraction of the fire and energy Romney aims at Trump been directed at Reid and Biden in the 2012 election, Romney would have won and rendered Trump unnecessary. Instead, he’s relegated to throwing barbs at Trump from the Senate, even if he does support the president’s agenda 80% of the time (more than several other Republicans).

While turning the other cheek may be good for the soul, in politics, it is unilateral disarmament.

Romney’s vote to convict burned a lot of bridges and, in 2024, he will have to face the voters of Utah, who will render their verdict. He may well end up a one-term senator when he could have been a good president. That is the real tragedy.

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