Romney’s Betrayal From the Republican Status Quo

On Tuesday February 4, 2020, The United States Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on two charges of impeachment. That was no surprise as the Republican party holds a majority in the Senate and there needs a two-thirds vote to remove the president from office.
Most expected that this would be a vote completely along party lines, but on the first charge, Republican Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney voted guilty. Most people know Mitt Romney as the 2012 presidential candidate who lost against President Obama, but he was elected to the Senate in the 2018 Midterms.

The main question that comes to peoples’ minds is Why? Why would Romney vote to convict, when all other prominent members of his party, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, all voted to acquit the President.The simplest answer is that he just thought that Trump was guilty.

The Washington Post wrote “The 2012 Republican presidential nominee said that he found the evidence against Trump overwhelming and the arguments by the president’s defense ultimately unconvincing.”

CNN stated “What Romney did in his singular act of defiance was make clear that being a Republican means more than the current cult of personality would have you believe.”

This is obviously a reference to all Republicans seeming to bow down to the president, despite many of them, namely Graham and Cruz, opposing him in the primaries.
Romney himself commented on the controversy.

He spoke on the Senate floor the Wednesday before the vote. “I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.” he said. Most of the quotes from his speech convey this as moral reasoning, as he voted that way because the evidence was compelling.

He drew a comparison to his father, George Romney,who was Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969 and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Nixon Administration. George Romney was known as a champion of civil rights. The Senator said “The image of my dad comes to mind. My dad was a person who stood by his word, and did exactly what he thought was right, regardless of the consequence, and that is a family tradition which I hold dear.” This still conveys Romney’s vote as a noble vote, that won’t mean anything but he would feel guilty without voting for what he thought was right.
Some people have credited his vote to being a publicity stunt. Some interviewees argued Romney has been irrelevant since he lost in 2012.

Justin Sommers and Kyle Goldware (both class of 2020) said Romney voted this way as a last grab to relevance, However there is little evidence for this. While you haven’t heard much from him between the 2012 and 2018 election, it is hard to believe that he did this all for attention due to limited gain from it. It is unlikely he would run for president again and his Senate election is in almost 5 years. People talked about it for like a week but since the Democratic Primary is well underway, people have shifted their focus.
Romney has received praise from Democrats and criticism from his own party. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(collectively known as AOC), a passionate progressive known for her critiques of capitalism said “I know the enormous amount of pressure you feel… the courage that took is something to be recognized. To stand out on your own,” Presidential Candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted “I agree, @MittRomney. Voting to convict the president is an act of patriotism. Thank you for yours,”
Republicans, namely the president have called Romney out. President Trump said “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” Politico described Trump’s actions as “Trump and the GOP’s first anti-Mitt salvo centered on a familiar set of name-calling: Romney is a “failed presidential candidate” jealous that Trump won the presidency; Romney craves the attention of the liberal media; Romney, a sanctimonious do-gooder, is a coward who wears mom jeans.”
This has raised a question, Was Romney heroic? This has been the rhetoric thrown around by Democrats such as Senators Warren, Amy Klobachar and Chris Murphy. But this is somewhat misleading.
Senators have six year terms and Romney was elected a year ago so he still has 5 years in his term. Along with the fact that he represents a deep red state, it is unlikely that a Democrat would beat him in the general election. There is a possibility that in the 2024 senate race, he could face some opposition in the primary, but it would be extremely hard to dethrone a former presidential candidate from his Senate seat.