After 30 years in the business of politics, you find yourself to be alumni of several different campaigns. I’ve always been proud to be a Mitt Romney alum, as the California director of his 2008 presidential campaign.
I had decided over a year beforehand that I wanted to work to elect Romney as president. I was impressed with how he was a Republican who was elected governor in the blue state of Massachusetts and pragmatically steered a course with conservative hues.
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My friend and then business partner Mike Murphy had navigated Romney’s Massachusetts victory, and I was influenced by the atypical genuine high esteem Mike held for Romney. Romney was a skilled conservative of strong character whom I deeply believed would be a great president.
His 2008 campaign was of course unsuccessful. He lost the Republican nomination to John McCain. But my belief in Romney remained and he was a great friend to consequential GOP efforts in California, like supporting his friend Meg Whitman’s quest for governor in 2010.
All of this came into focus during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Regardless of one’s belief about whether PresidentTrump should have been removed from office, you have to either be a rube or willfully discard plain truth that Trump did what he’s accused of doing.
Many GOP senators chose to be courtiers to their king, promoting the White House’s preposterous narrative that he did nothing wrong and the charges were a “hoax.”
Romney Clearly Acted in the Scope of His Conscience
But Romney did something different. He voted to find Trump guilty of the charge of abuse of power. Mitt Romney doing what he believes to be right thing should come as no shock.
In an interview with Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, Romney soberly described his inability to ignore his conscience and oath. Clear eyed about the backlash from his party that was sure to ensue he referenced a refrain from a hymn from his church: “Do what is right let the consequence follow.”
Romney clearly acted in the scope of his conscience (greatly informed by his faith), his duty to his oath and his desire to be on the correct side of history by rendering “impartial justice.”
If you watched his speech on the Senate floor, the emotion gripping him from the gravity of his decision was apparent. This was clearly a man taking a path much more difficult than the one his GOP colleagues were choosing. And he was reconciled to the consequences that would follow.
Those consequences were swift and pathetically predictable. The president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., in customarily sophomoric form posted a meme to Twitter mocking Romney for wearing mom jeans, and called him a slang term for women’s genitalia (just like his father infamously bragged about grabbing).
Romney’s niece, the obsequious chairwoman of Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, blasted him in a public statement, and there is clamor in Romney’s home state of Utah to pass legislation to allow for the recall of U.S. Senators. Trump has accused him of being a secret Democrat asset.
Many of Us Hope That Mitt’s Decision Is a Moment of Leadership
Romney’s vote of course had no effect on the outcome of the trial. But it is my hope and prayer that it will have an outcome on what comes next in American politics.
It has been so long since we’ve seen such a startling act of conscience from a politician that we may have forgotten what it looks like. For Romney to be eviscerated for his act of conscience, is further evidence that the GOP under Trump has become a gang with fidelity only to the capo.
The contrast of Romney choosing the difficult path of conviction and duty to the bootlicking capitulation of others, starkly defines the age upon us.
In the days ahead, Romney will be eviscerated by the Trump sycophants feeding at his trough for money and/or power, and he’ll ironically be lionized by a left tilting mainstream media which treated him quite unfairly as a presidential candidate. It’s all going to be predictable.
But beyond the babble, many of us hope that Mitt’s decision is a moment of leadership that sears consciences and emboldens people to treat our politics with more dignity and complexity than Trump, cable news and the petulance of many Democrats present to us daily.
A good place to start in doing your part to resist our slouch toward banal tribalism is in defending Romney for his act of conscience, even if you disagree.
I stand with Mitt. Like all politicians, he’ll tell you he’s not been perfect and has regrets. Such is life in the arena. He would have been a great president, but maybe God’s intended moment for him was as a senator.
I’ve remain forever a proud Romney alum. And this week I couldn’t be prouder.
About the Author
Rob Stutzman is a Republican strategist in Sacramento, Rob@Stutzmanpa.com. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.