Barron: Romney is No Renegade


(Courtesy Flickr)

By Morgan Barron, Opinion Writer

In August, Senator Mitt Romney held a 60 minute town hall at Weber State University in Ogden, where he spent the majority of his speaking time avoiding controversial topics. When asked about federal gun control, Romney dodged the question in his distinctly banal fashion — stating that gun ownership laws and the issues thereof are a state concern. Romney’s standard operating procedure is tired talking points. He said that federal public lands ought to be returned to the state, a merit-based immigration system should be implemented in the United States and the national debt and deficit needs to be reduced.

Though none of this behavior was unexpected, one his comments seemed especially misplaced, especially considering that his current disapproval rating exceeds his approval rating. When asked about his opinion on the Trump administration, Romney repeated a line from his 2018 campaign that he would, of course, speak up against the administration “when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions,” but followed this sentiment with, “It doesn’t happen very often.” It’s interesting he would cite so many potential adjectives only to state their rare occurrence. 

Back on March 3, 2016 a very different Mitt Romney took to the podium at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics to light up the conservative political atmosphere with a 20 minute long speech featuring direct, stinging statements like, “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented the country would sink into prolonged recession,” and “dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark.” This speech no doubt paved the way for The Salt Lake Tribune’s endorsement of Romney’s Senate run in 2018 which read, “We’re endorsing Romney because it’s a unique opportunity to replace Hatch’s seniority with Romney’s firepower.”

Others were rightfully more skeptical of Romney’s sharp tongue. Arizona Central contributor EJ Montini questioned if then-Senator-Elect Romney would support his words with action with the headline, “Is Mitt Romney the new John McCain? (Or only the next Jeff Flake?)” During his campaign, Romney did seem to cast himself as the new “maverick” of the Senate, a GOP team player who still knew when to stand for a cause greater than self-interest. Since taking office, Romney has held himself up as a “Renegade Republican” despite taking no action to justify the moniker.

Back in July, a political firestorm ignited when chants of “Send her back!” erupted at a rally held by President Trump in North Carolina. “Her” referred to Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar who fled her native country of Somalia when she was eight due to the country’s violent civil war. Representative Omar was one of four Democratic members of Congress who the President targeted with a series of racist tweets which included the line, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

When asked about the xenophobic chanting by reporters, Trump replied that he disagreed with the message of the chants and did not know why supporters chose those words to chant. Instead of holding the President accountable for his vitriol, Senator Romney simply tweeted, “The chants at last night’s rally were offensive, and I’m glad the President has disavowed them,” refusing to rebuke, let alone acknowledge, the President’s role in increasing nativist sentiments in our country. Trump’s rhetoric has real consequences. FBI data shows that since Trump’s election there has been an unexpected spike in hate crimes in counties where Trump won by large margins.

Senator Romney’s website reads, “I want to bring Utah’s values to Washington… reverence for freedom, respect for others, and the importance of service, civility, and frugality.” Ironically, these values are the very ones under constant attack from President Trump, from his constant trampling the country’s founding documents to his lack of respect for our allies, from the creation of policy that negatively impacts servicemen to diverting $54 million from military projects in Utah to fund his border wall. 

The firebrand, old-school Republican that spared no ammunition at the U back in 2016 has filled his new shell casings with careful, politically calculated expressions of “concern.” Clearly Senator Romney is politically aware of the loyalty Republicans have to President Trump. Romney’s newly found ambivalence about Trump after such previously condemning rhetoric hints that Romney, and his rhetoric, might be contingent on political convenience. Instead of speaking his convictions with bravery, possibly being left to twist in the wind by Trump’s GOP, Romney bends towards convenience like a blade of grass. 


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