The former Governor of Massachusetts is running for Senate in Utah. His victory is not only inevitable but also quite desirable.
A blue wave in this year’s midterm elections might very well be coming, but Utah, despite the hope ignited by the Democratic miracle in Alabama last year, will not turn blue.
Romney, a former missionary, is very popular with Mormon Utahans, who make up for 60% of the electorate in a state — if not a union — where religion is often the deciding factor. Moreover, Romney is praised as the saviour of the 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Utah’s capital Salt Lake City. For all this, Romney is often called Utah’s favourite adopted son.
Romney is not just inevitable, however, he is objectively a good choice. Let me be clear: I do not see eye-to-eye with the Governor on many, if not most, issues. However, conservatism is not going to disappear, and it shouldn’t; plurality of opinion is one of the reasons democracy works.
The better the representatives on each side of the aisle, the more productive the political discussion and the higher the level of our political discourse. Every liberal should hope for the worthiest of conservatives to lead the Republican Party, and every conservative should embrace respectable Democrats.
Why then, would Romney be a good choice? First, there is the potential of Romney standing up to President Trump. Most recently, Romney signalled this in his campaign-launching ad in which he distanced himself from Trump’s immigration policies, saying, “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world. Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”
As for Trump’s endorsement of Romney’s Senate bid, it adds nothing of substance. Other than endorsing Romney publicly, the President had two options, either stay quiet about the issue and wait in silence for Romney’s swearing-in next year or support someone else only to end up on the losing side, like he did in Alabama.
Trump is not a person to stay quiet nor does he want to end up on the losing side again, and he must have seen no reason to anger congressional Republicans by refusing to support Romney — Senate Majority Leader McConnell publicly urged Trump to endorse Romney.
Even though back in 2016 he tweeted, “[i]f Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement,” Romney accepted Trump’s endorsement, tweeting, “Thank you Mr. President for the support. I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah.”
Although that does seem like political posturing, Romney did not have a choice here; had he declined Trump’s endorsement, he would have painted his campaign as an anti-Trump crusade. That is not something a candidate, especially in a red state, can afford to do.
And at the end of the day, the main focus of a campaign is promising to represent the constituents’ best interests – for Romney, given that he’s not a native Utahan, focusing on Utahans’ issues and concerns is crucial, and that is what he smoothly did in that tweet.
After all, even before he launched his campaign, his Democratic opponent, Jenny Wilson, attacked him for this, while Rob Anderson, the Utah Republican Party chairman, criticised Romney for “essentially doing what Hillary Clinton did in New York,” before retracting his comments. Clinton bought a house in New York a little over a year before her election to the Senate, having never lived in the state before, with the White House being her main residence up until that point.
Moreover, by accepting Trump’s endorsement, Romney has fended off any possible primary challenge from the right.
Romney meeting with Trump after the latter’s election, and the possibility of the former becoming the Secretary of State, is often used as an argument by many fellow liberals against the former Governor. However, what was Romney supposed to do? Had Romney refused to meet, or even respond to Trump’s call, I, a liberal, would have called him out for it. When the President of the United States (or President-elect) calls, you respond, for when the President calls, the people call.
Moreover, it must be pointed out that Romney was admittedly right about Russia. Russia, as we have seen through the Mueller investigation, has been proven to be “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” as Romney put it in 2012. President Obama, in the defining moment of the third presidential debate in 2012, made fun of Romney for that comment.
It is quite apparent that President Obama was wrong. Was Romney’s comment based on a worldview that sees the world through Cold War mentality, and Obama’s one that thinks — or hopes — that the world’s passed that? Maybe. Regardless, Romney must be given some credit for in some way recognising the grave threat that Russia now poses.
Further evidence, if true, would be recent reports that Russian officials asked the President to avoid picking Romney for Secretary of State. These reports, like everything Christopher Steele has touched, are tough to prove and contested in the political arena, yet appear eminently believable. Regardless of the validity of the report, it is understandable that Russia wouldn’t like to see Romney but Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil with close ties to Russia, as the top US Diplomat.
Tillerson’s State Department was granted $120 million to fight Russian meddling, and it has spent $0. As a Senator, Romney can do a lot to defend national interests and national security, which appear to be under grave threat in the Trump era.
Despite all his faults, Romney understands the importance of diplomacy, values true patriotism, knows that words matter and that true leaders must be held to a higher standard, respect rivals, and carry themselves with dignity and decency. He is a remedy for the disease that is Trump from within the Republican Party.