Senator Mitt Romney, An ?Honorable Politician


On September 13, 2023 Senator Mitt Romney announced he will not run for re-election. Concurrently, The Atlantic published McKay Coppins’ essay “What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate,” which is a long excerpt from Coppins’ upcoming biography of Mitt Romney entitled “Romney: A Reckoning.”

After reading What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate I am left wondering whether Senator Romney was the honorable politician I had previously thought he was.

In writing Senator Romney’s biography, McKay Coppins was given essentially unlimited and unrestricted access to Mitt Romney and to all of his writings which included “hundreds of pages of his private journals and years’ worth of personal correspondence, including sensitive emails with some of the most powerful Republicans in the count.” With such access, it would be reasonable to conclude that the statements and sentiments that Coppins attributed to Senator Romney are likely accurate as they were amply supported by Senator Romney’s writings and/or Coppins’ interview notes.

Historical Background

As a longtime resident of Massachusetts, I was familiar with Mitt Romney in his capacity as Governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007). While I did not vote for Governor Romney, as his political philosophy is more conservative than mine, I believed him to be a honorable person and a politician of integrity.

Mitt Romney was served as the junior US Senator from Utah beginning in January of 2019, during the second half of the Trump presidency.  

After the November 2020 election, Trump and his enablers instituted a multi-faceted, multi-state, illegal processes as well as a national propaganda campaign designed to prevent the inauguration of President Biden. These machinations culminated, on January 6, 2021, in President Trump inciting an angry mob into storm the US Capital so as to prevent Joe Biden from being officially designated as the 46th President of the United States.

To his credit, Senator Mitt Romney voted to impeach President Trump on February 5, 2020 and again on February 13, 2021.

For reasons alluded to below and laid-out in author Coppins’ Atlantic article, Mitt Romney decided that he will not run for re-election.

Romney’s Impression of his Republican Senatorial Colleagues

In several sections of author Coppins’ Atlantic article, Coppins wrote about Senator Romney’s impression of his Senate colleagues, including the following excerpts:

Romney’s most surprising discovery upon entering the Senate was that his disgust with Trump was not unique among his Republican colleagues. “Almost without exception,” he (Romney) told me (Coppins), “they shared my view of the president.” In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president’s most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddlerlike psyche. Romney recalled one senior Republican senator frankly admitting, “He has none of the qualities you would want in a president, and all of the qualities you wouldn’t. 

The men and women of the Senate might not need their government salary to survive, but they needed the stimulation, the sense of relevance, the power. One of his new colleagues told him that the first consideration when voting on any bill should be “Will this help me win reelection?” (The second and third considerations, the colleague continued, should be what effect it would have on his constituents and on his state.)

A very large portion of my (Republican) party really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” He’d (Romney) realized this only recently...” (underline is my addition)

Coppins explained that Senator Romney was uncertain as to the political integrity and motivation of Republican Leader Senator McConnell in that Romney could not decide:

which version of McConnell was authentic—the one who did Trump’s bidding in public, or the one who excoriated him (Trump) in their private conversations…

Was Senator Romney an Honorable Politician?

Mitt Romney told Coppins that from the very beginning of his Senate tenure Romney knew that his Republican colleagues would politically support Trump, even while they acknowledged that Trump was promoting an unAmerican, anti-constitutional agenda. Romney’s fellow Republican Senators also acknowledged to Senator Romney, both in words and deeds, that their primary political priority was to ensure their re-election.  

Mitt Romney was also aware that Senator McConnell would politically support Trump, even as Trump promoted or espoused blatantly unAmerican, anti-constitutional, and authoritarian policies. 

Despite Romney’s contempt for Republican Leader McConnell’s promotion of Trump’s unAmerican agenda, Senator Romney facilitated/acquiesced with Senator McConnell’s efforts to unite the Republican Senatorial caucus so as to advance Trump’s political career, even if that meant ignoring the oath all the Republican Senators took to “support and defend the US. Constitution.” 

So why did Senator Romney choose to support Senator McConnell and the Republican caucus for the entirety of his Senatorial career when he objectively knew that these politicians were intent on promoting the political career of a man who led an insurrection against the US Government?

A charitable interpretation of these events is that Senator Romney was socially naive and a poor judge of political character and moral fiber; as he told author Coppins, it was “only recently” that he came to realize his support of Senator McConnell and the Republican caucus would advance Mr. Trump’s unconstitutional political power grab.

A more Machiavellian interpretation of the data is that Senator Romney supported, and continues to support, Republican Leader McConnell and the Republican caucus because the GOP policies are designed to enrich America’s wealthiest demographic (Senator Romney’s wealth is estimated to be ~$250 million), and Senator Romney is less concerned that about the future of democracy in America. 

The Test of Romney’s Honor

If Mitt Romney is the honorable person I had believed he was, then he should use his remaining time in the US Senate to undercut Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s Trumpian agenda by resigning from the Republican Party,  (which, per Romney, is now the only national political party which supports the US Constitution,) declaring himself an independent, and caucusing with the Senate Democrats.

While this may turnout to be a symbolic gesture, given the precarious health of some Democratic Senators and the closely divided nature of the US Senate, this “gesture” may ultimately be very important in ensuring that Senate Minority Leader McConnell does not become Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

Only time will tell whether Senator Romney is an honorable person who was naively incapable of distinguishing a Machiavellian politician from an honorable politician, or whether Senator Romney was just another self-serving Republican politician who wanted to enact federal policies which would advance his personal interests, and who is now, through his newly published biography, attempting to ensure that history reflects favorably upon his Senatorial tenure.

Hayward Zwerling

15 September 2023


Addendum 9/16/2023: Synopsis and other minor editorial revisions.

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