Mitt Romney is the only person in the Senate who knows what Donald Trump is going through. Romney, like Trump, lost a presidential general election and knows the sting and soul-searching that follows such a rejection.
So when Romney stood on the Senate floor to speak about the storming of the US Capitol by pro-Trump forces on Wednesday and the ongoing debate over whether or not to formally object to the Electoral College results that affirmed Joe Biden’s victory, I listened closely. And the Utah senator said something about politics and leadership that every single one of his colleagues would do well to remember.
Here it is (bolding is mine):
“The objectors have claimed they are doing so on behalf of the voters. Have an audit, they say, to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen. Please! No congressional-led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the President will continue to claim that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.”
Is there any better summation of how our leaders should ask? Or a more clear indictment of the absence of actual leadership that we have seen from not just Trump but his many enablers in Congress?
Trump has spent four years seeking to undermine truth and facts, and the media that reports them. The Republican Party has aided and abetted that effort – not because they see things the way Trump does (lots and lots of Republican elected officials would privately roll their eyes and express astonishment at what the President said and tweeted) but because they were terrified of the political consequences of crossing him.
And it wasn’t just Trump’s rhetoric where Republicans laid down for him. Trump’s utter disregard and disinterest for things like the debt and the deficit, the size of the federal government and the separation of powers was glossed over or ignored because, well, conservative judges – or something?
This is not what leadership looks like. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s an abdication of leadership. It’s knowing what the right thing to do is and doing the opposite because, well, it’s easier.
Romney has, without doubt, taken the road less traveled among his Republican colleagues over these last few years. He was an outspoken opponent of nominating Trump. He has repeatedly – and publicly – expressed his misgivings with what this President says and how he acts in office.
And he paid the price. He was attacked by the President. He was belittled by former colleagues. And as recently as this week, he was mocked on his way from Salt Lake City to Washington for his stands on principle – and against Trump.
It would have been a hell of a lot easier for Romney to just stay silent as Trump engaged in his divisive and dangerous rhetoric. To sit by, knowing that saying nothing would probably be the best thing for his personal political interests.
He didn’t do that. Because he understands that speaking truth to power is what leadership is all about. And that lying to people because it helps you politically is not only cowardice. It’s dangerous.
We saw just how dangerous on Wednesday in the Capitol.