February 6, 2020

Mitt Romney: When Party Loyalty Demands Too Much

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

The real national civics lesson that has emerged from the Senate trial of President Donald J. Trump was taught by Senator Mitt Romney of Utah who cast the lone Republican vote for conviction and removal of the President. Senator Romney had absolutely nothing to gain and his entire political career to lose with his vote to convict and remove. Well, that’s not quite accurate—he had his self-respect to protect, and he considered that more important than protecting his political future. Senator Romney will reap no political benefit anywhere with his vote. Voters in his strongly Republican home state of Utah now give Trump a strong thumbs up. In fact, Trump’s approval rating in Utah is well above the national average. Politically speaking, Romney’s vote made no sense. His sense of “right,” however, far outweighed his sense of political expediency. Good for him. History will treat him well.

The condemnations came fast and furious from Trump supporters and Trump sycophants. The President himself called Senator Romney a failed presidential candidate who used religion as a crutch when casting his guilty vote. Donald Trump Junior immediately called Senator Romney a “pussy.” One needn’t wonder too long at whose knee junior learned to express himself.

While his fellow Republicans have rushed to vilify him, history, we believe, will applaud him. So would George Washington, who understood the poisonous potential of political parties. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, the authors of our treasured Federalist Papers, would smile appreciatively to know that patriots like Mitt Romney would still be around 233 years after they gave America those remarkable eighty-five essays that revealed so eloquently their reasoning with respect to the American experiment they envisioned.

I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Mitt Romney. A small group of us were invited to spend a little time with him when he came to Indian Wells, California to lecture. We met with him in his suite for a short time. The discussion was entirely non-political. He shared his favorite snacks with us, (small peanut butter and honey sandwiches) as we engaged in thoroughly relaxed and convivial conversation. Here, I thought, was an uncommonly decent man. Indeed, he was and is.

I have known one other elected official who sacrificed a political career and a congressional seat he could have held forever rather than cast a vote to protect a President gone bad. I’m referring to the late Larry Hogan, the father of the current Republican Governor of Maryland. Larry Hogan was my dear friend and former business partner before my career took me from Washington, DC to Chicago. I was privileged to work closely with him when he ran for Congress, managing the advertising for his campaigns, writing many of his speeches and doing all of his polling. The voters of Maryland’s heavily democratic fifth congressional district, who had only elected one other Republican to any elected office in the entire history of the district, rallied around Larry Hogan electing to him to three successive terms, in 1968, 1970 and 1972. He was returned to office with 62.5% of the vote in his last campaign for Congress. Then, came Watergate.

Larry was a member of the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Democrat Peter Rodino of New Jersey. Larry Hogan, a conservative Republican, was presumed to be a Nixon loyalist. Indeed, he was. He had campaigned for Nixon and Nixon returned the favor by campaigning for Larry. Nixon’s daughters even campaigned for Larry Hogan. When we spoke immediately after the Watergate break-in Larry was sure the burglary was a rogue caper. But then came the evidence, the testimony, the transcripts, and the tapes. Larry called me the evening before he announced that he was voting for all three Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon. He was crestfallen. He told me he knew his decision would end his political career. The Republicans, he said, would turn him out in the next primary, but he knew he had no choice. His allegiance, like Senator Romney’s, was to his oath of office and to his conscience. He was the first Republican to break ranks. Other Republicans followed him, and the following day the late Senator Barry Goldwater informed Nixon that it was over. Those Republicans, all of them, were profiles in courage.

Mitt Romney, like Larry Hogan before him, will never have second thoughts about his vote to remove the President. He knows President Trump and his minions will heap scorn on him and there will be no end to the name-calling and the attempts to muddy his name and trample his reputation. He will be persona non grata in Republican circles and scorned by many in his home state. The President will spare no opportunity to vilify him as he has vilified John McCain, Khizr Kahn, the gold-star father whose son was killed in Iraq, Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Brooks, Robert Gates, and countless others.

Already Romney’s nod to his own religious faith is being belittled. But Mitt Romney wasn’t only talking about his Mormon religion when he alluded to his duty to honor the oath he took. What religion doesn’t teach faithful allegiance to an oath made in God’s name.

Mitt Romney, like Larry Hogan, understood what George Washington meant when he wrote, “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” They, like George Washington, knew that sometimes party loyalty demands too much.

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27 responses to “Mitt Romney: When Party Loyalty Demands Too Much”

  1. Oh please, Hal. Anger and personal resentment can undoubtedly color one person’s appraisal of another. Have you forgotten the years of animus between Romney and Trump that existed well before Trump became president and Romney entered the Senate? Romney’s assertion was that he’s was taking the moral high ground in judging Trump because he is a profoundly religious man and took an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. Does that statement presuppose that the other 52 Republican senators who voted not to convict were non-believers or were dishonorable? Sort of a holier than thou statement it would seem. Sen Lamar Alexander who initially expressed some doubts cast a critical vote in favor of acquittal. Was he somehow less scrupulous than Romney?
    Differences of opinion in all matters, especially in politics, exist and should be respected and many conscious and subconscious factors influence a person’s vote.
    Come, let’s not be so laudatory of a turncoat’s motives and importantly try to fully fathom what drives such a person’s actions especially when they are predicated on long-standing bitter indignation.
    For context please refer to an article in The Hill, By Rebbeca Klar – 02/06/20 06:44 PM EST

  2. Response to Dr. Paul Silverstein
    At no time did Senator Romney question any other Senator’s motive. He addressed only his own motive. Dr. Silverstein’s reference to Senator Romney as a “turncoat” for voting his conscience eloquently attests to the basic point of this essay. Party loyalty does, indeed, demand too much.

  3. Prover Stephen E. says:

    Wonderful blog essay.

  4. Robert borns says:

    Mitts action. ——-face one/we acknowledge that your deep religious feelings compelled you to vote against trump. ——face two/your personal hatred toward trump was so great and this gave you the unique platform to show the world your extreme hatred. Is that what is called two faced?

  5. Steve marcus says:

    Face one/this election is rigged against me. Face two/how can I rig this election against my opponent. Which value system are we working with? THAT is what’s called two faced.

  6. Perry says:

    On the evidence presented Trump obviously is innocent, given that there might be the “Smoking Gun” out there to prove otherwise I believe Mitt Romney’s vote was payback for his own failed candidacy where Trump mocked him in the run up to the
    nomination.

  7. Ted Goldman says:

    I do not question Mitt Romney’s motives for voting guilty in the Trump impeachment. Romney heard the evidence, as we all did, and arrived at the wrong decision.
    Mitt Romney may yet claim, like his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney, that he was
    “Brainwashed”.

  8. The need to condemn Romney for his vote against Trump, and to belittle his motive, that is, the allegiance he expressed to his oath to judge impartially, attests to our point. Sometimes party loyalty or, perhaps, candidate loyalty, demands too much.

  9. Once again, the need to condemn Romney for his vote against Trump, and to belittle his motive, that is, the allegiance he expressed to his oath to judge impartially, attests to our point. Sometimes party loyalty or, perhaps, candidate loyalty, demands too much.

  10. As if to further underline my points of last evening, this article in the Washington Examiner by Byron York came across my desktop this morning. I would encourage all to read it. The article is entitled, “Mitt Romney’s ‘profile in courage’. ”
    York states, “Mitt Romney had a reputation as a flip-flopper, an opportunist, a politician who would tailor his beliefs to fit whichever group he was trying to please. ” He goes on to say,
    “Although he is a man with some undeniably good qualities, those who have watched him over the years will wonder whether the vote was truly something new or the Romney they have known for a long time.”

  11. ELIEZAR BENJAMEIN.aka Leonard Sherman says:

    Hate is a terrible decease , it is strong enough to overcome, logic, reason , compassion and even declared religious beliefs.The hatred of another person often destroyes his reputation and any good that he may have done and now and forever the reward for his hate will be that history will only recall his hate

  12. Michael Gong says:

    President Trump convicted himself by his own words when he admitted that he asked the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. On its face, that is an abuse of power. He doubled up by withholding funds approved by congress unless the Ukraine president announced that the Bidens were under investigation. He refused to allow witnesses who had first hand information on this matter to testify before congress. On its face, that is a coverup which is a felony. Thus, mindless Trump supporters have no where to go from the results of the senate acquittal but to attack Romney’s motives and character for his guilty vote. That is what is known as a low blow, a “bum rap.” It’s not just history that will pass judgment on this result. We may all suffer from it, and sooner than anyone thinks. We should all know from history who suffers most when the strongman can do anything he wants “for the good of the people.” Beware people. The next shoe is about to drop.

  13. judy allen says:

    I have long awarded Romney the “WAFFLE WINNER” of the year…..any and all years since he ran and lost (I supported him) and he, like Hillary, can’t get over it. Do you think he really represented the will of the folks in Utah that put him in office with his vote. My bet he won’t bother to run again……. he forgot/ignored the people that put him in office to represent Utah.

  14. Response to Judy:
    No, I don’t think Romney’s vote represented the will of the voters in Utah. According to recent polling data, 55% of Mormons in Utah approve of the job President Trump is doing, including 61% of Mormon men. So no, he wasn’t trolling for votes. His vote was a political non-starter. It demonstrates he was voting his conscience not a political strategic calculation. Three Cheers for Mitt Romney.

  15. James Fisher says:

    I voted for Romney in the 2012 presidential election and supported Ohio GovernorJohn Kasich in the 2016 primaries. I feel like both of these men have let me – and the Republican party – down.

    They suffer from the same malady – they are both sore losers and are both full of themselves.

    Yes, Romney will be ostracized by most Americans for his vote to convict Trump – but he did it anyway because he desperately craves the attention and the power.

    Good riddance Mr. Romney.

  16. Amy Lask says:

    After reading these comments and pondering on recent conversations I have heard, I am bothered by the accusations that if one doesn’t vote within party lines than they are a turncoat, scoundrel, traitor or worse. It seems one hard fact many are forgetting is that it is, as an American Citizen, not only a right but a privilege to vote according to one’s own conscience based on their interpretation of evidence, not what the party interprets as evidence, or lack of. When was this forgotten or why is this so often ignored?

  17. sandy Swirnoff says:

    I agree with you completely Hal. Three cheers for Romney!
    Sandy Swirnoff

  18. Robert J. Fraiman says:

    Three cheers for Senator Romney! None of your negative comments mentioned the fact that Senator McConnell
    and Senator Graham raised their right hand and swore to hear
    all the facts before they cast their vote. However, they both stated, before taking the oath and after the oath, that they had
    both made up their minds to acquit the President. A fair trial?
    No witnesses, really? At least one Senator honored his oath!!

  19. Scott Rabin says:

    I live in UT. We call him “Reek”. The character from Game of Thrones. He is a pitiful excuse for a Republican or Conservative. He should be running as a Democrat. He’s a disgrace and history will see him as such. He is the swamp and may all of self-promoting parasites like him be destroyed. #WINNING

  20. Lance Pierce says:

    Mr. Rabin is wrong about only one thing. His condemnation is not strong enough. Up until now, my biggest presidential regret was having voted for Jimmy “I hate the Jews” Carter, when I was still a young naive 18 year old. Now, I actually think my vote for “Reek” or even McCain is more regrettable. I hope Utah is unkind next election to their junior senator.

  21. Hal Gershowitz:
    As the column states, there was nothing political to be gained in Romney’s conscience-driven decision to vote against the President. The scorn heaped upon him as evidenced by the comments of those who oppose him are probably representative enough of his constituents to presage an end to his political career. Sometimes party loyalty, indeed, demands too much. Three Cheers for Mitt Romney.

  22. judy says:

    I continue to believe he had a duty to represent the Utah voters that put him in office……. He could have at a minimum mentioned that he was going against the will of the very people that put him in office. Am I really so wrong to think the “will of the people” holds no weight?

    I do believe he doesn’t want to run again as folks are beginning to look into the bennies that his family is receiving by serving on Boards they know nothing about……but that is for another day. Drain the Swamp. Term limits! (both parties)

  23. Barbara Weisberg says:

    I applaud Mitt Romney for the courage he showed
    by his vote. He had nothing to gain ,nor did all the
    government people who risked their jobs and careers
    for doing what they believed was right.

  24. Response to Judy:
    Yes, Judy, you actually are wrong. Voters in America send their representatives to Washington to use their best judgment, and each Representative’s or Senator’s judgment may or may not be consistent with that of the people they represent. Sometimes it isn’t, which is why people often get voted out of office. Romney knows full well he might very well be voted out of office for voting to expel a President who he believes committed an impeachable offense. But the job of a Senator or Congressman isn’t to take a poll to determine how he is to vote. His job is to use his best judgment and let the chips (votes) fall where they may. That takes courage. Three Cheers for Mitt Romney.

  25. Joan Wyllie says:

    I hope no one is foolish enough to believe Romney, who flips at the blink of an eye, is not fully aware of exactly what he is doing. He does not think twice to lean left or right, when he feels it might benefit him. Mark my words, he will turn back to the Democratic Party and will be welcomed with open, naive arms. He will use and turn on them as fast as he did President Trump. I would feel confident to wager his plan is in full force, with plans to run in 2024 as a Democratic ticket.
    He is not this honorable person willing to throw his political career away, because “his conscience said to do the right thing.”

  26. James Fisher says:

    Hal, you appear to have fallen for Romney’s cleverly deceptive ruse. I trust the people of Utah who know this man best. He is NOT acting out of “conscience” in this matter. He has been quacking for a long time and it is time for all rational people to call him for the duck he is.

  27. Michael Gong says:

    What do you think of the motives or character of those who voted to acquit?

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