A Senator Romney could stand up to Donald Trump without losing his seat.
America needs Mitt Romney.
I never thought I would find myself typing those words. In 2012, when Romney ran for the presidency, I unabashedly voted for Obama instead. Romney’s bellicose rhetoric towards Iran bothered me, as did his borderline racist comments about Palestinians. In contrast, Obama impressed me with his cautious, cerebral approach to decision making and his compassionate position on immigration. In the end, though Romney and I shared the same faith (Mormonism), I felt that Obama more accurately reflected the values that I hold dear.
But 2017 isn’t 2012. Now, America isn’t ruled by the erudite Obama, but by the ever-errant Trump. Since his inauguration, Trump has waged a full-fledged assault on core tenets of American democracy. He has assailed the sacred institution of the free press, calling the media the “enemy of the people” and hinting that he would like to see libel laws loosened. He has also thumbed his nose at the Constitution, violating its Emoluments Clause since Day 1. And let’s not forget his politicization of law enforcement by firing FBI Director James Comey in an attempt to stop his investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The Trump presidency has been an unmitigated disaster, and I only fear it is going to get worse. The Donald’s unprecedented rape of the Republic has largely been ignored by GOP lawmakers. Indeed, they have acted like the crowd in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” turning a blind eye to Trump’s outrages to avoid the disfavor of his far-right base. Their indifference as Trump pillages the halls of government gives Trump the impression that he can get away with even more bad behavior.
So what does this have to do with Mitt Romney? Well, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who is now 83, has tossed around the idea of retiring from politics at the end of his current term. This has been accompanied by speculation that Romney will seek his seat. And though Hatch has insisted that Romney has no plans to succeed him, if the former Massachusetts governor were to do so, he would be uniquely positioned to lead a Republican campaign to hold Trump accountable, if not remove him from office.
During the 2016 campaign, Romney was a fierce critic of Trump. At a speech at the University of Utah, he denounced him as a “fraud” and “phony” whose “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” Although he later seemed to walk back such criticism while vying for the post of Secretary of State in Trump’s Cabinet, many suspected that this move was motivated more by a desire to protect the nation’s foreign policy than a newfound friendship with the Manhattan mogul.
Okay – Romney is no friend of Trump. But tons of other Republican politicos hate Trump, and none of them are leading an insurgency against his White House. What makes Romney different?
Three words: Utah loves Romney.
Romney’s status as the first Mormon candidate for president from a major party, his business acumen, and his past service in the Church’s hierarchy have earned him a special place in the hearts of Beehive State residents. During his 2012 run, he carried Utah by a margin unseen in the state’s history, and he remains immensely popular among Utahans of all political stripes. If he were to run for Hatch’s seat, it would be his for the taking. And Utah’s robust support for him means that he would be unlikely to face a serious primary challenge in the foreseeable future.
Romney’s near-immunity to primary challenge would free him from the worries that have bedeviled other Republican politicians. Since the election, Republican legislators and their staffers have told me and others that I know, behind closed doors, that they think Trump is unfit for the presidency. But they have been scared to make such comments publicly out of fear of Trump’s far-right base, a base that could oust them in future GOP primaries. Romney, however, need not fear such an intra-party uprising – he could equate Trump with Osama Bin Laden still retain the support of the vast majority of Utah Republicans.
A primary-resistant Senator Romney could stand up to Trump and get away with it. And, given his past comments, he would probably be more than happy to denounce Trump for his actions. With his national stature, Romney may even be capable of leading a bipartisan effort to remove our incompetent “Cheeto-in-Chief” from office.
So, despite my past opposition, I am again left typing words that I never thought I would:
“Run, Romney, Run!”