Justice During the Dark Hours of Political Partisanship: Senator Mitt W. Romney’s profile in Courage

For the third time in United States history, the House of Representatives voted to formally impeach the President of the United States based on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, on December 18, 2019 (“Articles of Impeachment Against Donald John Trump”). With the nation in the midst of a highly polarized era, the impeachment process swiftly developed into a hyperpartisan, politically divisive proceeding that wrenched Americans apart. Democratic politicians continuously reiterated the severity of the accusations and the importance of due process while Republican politicians argued the impeachment to be no more than a political hoax, slander damaging to the nation’s institutions. The two parties aligned themselves against one another and consequently threw the American people, once again, into partisan opposition. 

The political divisiveness the impeachment presented, however, did not go unopposed. One Senator courageously broke party lines in his vote, and in doing so, illustrated the significance of maintaining justice over adhering to biased partisanships. He demonstrated a willingness to do what he believed was just instead of what would be politically convenient. 

Senator Willard Mitt Romney is no stranger to the Republican party. His father, George Romney, was a prominent member of the Republican Party who served as a Republican Governor for Michigan, ran for the 1968 Republican Party Presidential nomination, and served in Republican President Richard Nixon’s white house cabinet (“Gov. George Wilcken Romney”). Mitt Romney followed in his father’s footsteps and rose throughout his political career to become a high-profile and distinguished Republican politician. After serving four successful years as governor of Massachusetts, Romney twice pursued the presidential ticket, both times running as a Republican, and in 2012 successfully became the official presidential nominee for the Republican Party. Finally, in 2018, Romney ran an auspicious campaign for a Senate seat in the state of Utah, once again running as a Republican, and was ultimately successful (”Mitt Romney”). Accordingly, as the 2020 impeachment process progressed and the Democratic and Republican Parties ardently rallied support for each party’s political interests, Senator Romney seemed politically infallible. 

When the time came for Senate jurors to vote, however, Senator Romney gambled his entire political future. Romney became the first-ever senator to vote to convict a President of his own party. He voted to convict President Trump on the charge of abuse of power (”Roll Call Vote 116th Congress – 2nd Session”). 

“But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience”

-SENATOR MITT W. ROMNEY

In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Romney explained how judging the leader of his own Party would be one of the most difficult decisions he would ever make, but the oaths he took before God as a Senator and as a juror, along with his inescapable convictions, forced him to make his politically perilous decision. Shaking, Romney explained: “In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, ‘I stand with the team’. I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind.” With the room silent, Romney quiveringly continued: “But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience” (Romney). Partisan polarization was in full throttle and politicians were expected to uphold party positions, but Romney voted yielding to his impartial convictions- despite the severe consequences it would have on his political career. 

Senator Romney, once the face of the Republican party, can acclaim much, if not all, of his political success to Republican constituents. After voting to convict one of the most enthusiastically supported Republican Presidents, however, voters were quick to accuse Romney of betraying his Party. President Trump publicly lashed out at the Senator during two different speeches for voting to convict him, and tweeted to over eighty-million followers exclaiming that Senator Romney “sanctimoniously” devoted energy and anger to defeat the President (@realDonaldTrump). Donald Trump Jr. followed suit and rebuked Senator Romney for his vote, tweeting: “… He [Romney] was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.” (@DonaldJTrumpJr.). Countless articles, tweets, even petitions, were subsequently written out of resentment for Romney and many Republicans called for his excommunication from the Republican Party.  

Senator Romney’s decision would yield no reward but unleash harsh consequences. Romney could have rationalized that since his vote wasn’t going to be a crucial one, he could maintain his Party’s position and vote with the rest of the Republican Senators to acquit the President. Further, Romney could  have rationalized that he was one of the only Republicans to even vote to call witnesses to the trial (Parlapiano et al.), and that was the biggest impact he could have. Romney could have avoided the political ostracism and the vehement denunciations he received from the party he was so fundamentally attached to- the party he was once the face of- but Romney’s conscience was simply unable to consent.

In JFK’s Profiles In Courage, Kennedy praises Senator Edmund Ross for his courageous votes to acquit President Andrew Johnson during the infamous impeachment trial, insisting that through Ross’s vote, Ross assisted in preserving the integrity of the U.S. Presidency.  Kennedy records a telegraph from Ross saying: “I have taken an oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, and trust that I shall have the courage to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of the country” (Kennedy 157). Senator Romney, over a century and a half later, similarly helped preserve the integrity of the U.S. Presidency by demonstrating a core belief that our nation is not merely an accumulation of red states and blue states where partisanship rules, but a nation where impartial and unbiased judgment is maintained.

 Today, as our nation is relentlessly torn along partisan ends, we must learn from Senator Romney, who served as a political and moral leader, to defend the highest standards of integrity, probity, and justice. 

Bibliography

“Articles of Impeachment Against Donald John Trump.” congress.gov, 2019, www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres755/BILLS-116hres755enr.pdf.

@DonaldJTrumpJr. “Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP .” Twitter, 5 February 2020, 11:32 AM, twitter.com/DonaldJTrumpJr/status/1225140190920019968.

“Mitt Romney.” The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020 March 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mitt-Romney. 

“Gov. George Wilcken Romney.” National Governors Association, www.nga.org/governor/george-wilcken-romney/.

Kennedy, John F. Profiles In Courage. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1964.

Parlapiano, Alicia, et al. “How Democrats and Republicans Voted on Witnesses in the Trump Impeachment Trial.” the New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/01/31/us/politics/impeachment-vote.html?mtrref=www.google.com&assetType=REGIWALL.

@realDonaldTrump. “Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack Obama as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won the election. Read the Transcripts!” Twitter, 5 February 2020, 9:22 PM, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1225288731235700737.

“Roll Call Vote 116th Congress – 2nd Session.” senate.gov, www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=116&session=2&vote=00033.

Romney, Mitt W. “Romney Delivers Remarks on Impeachment Vote.” romney.senate.gov, 5 February 2020, http://www.romney.senate.gov/romney-delivers-remarks-impeachment-vote.

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