As the Washington Post reported yesterday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who came to be loved more by Democrats than his own party after turning vociferously against Donald Trump’s supervillain presidency, will not run for re-election in 2024:
Romney, elected to the Senate in 2018 with 63 percent of the vote, said he will serve out the duration of his term, which ends in January 2025. His decision not to seek reelection next year is likely to mark the end of a political career that has been notable, especially in the Trump era, for independence and a willingness to stand up against the base of his party that has shifted dramatically in Trump’s direction in the decade since Romney was its standard-bearer.
From the time Trump first became a candidate until today, Romney has been among his most outspoken critics, and nothing about his departure is expected to change that. In the weeks before Trump’s 2017 inauguration, Romney publicly acquiesced, expressing hope for the president-elect’s leadership while he was under consideration to be secretary of state. But his turnabout was short-lived…
Democrats who learned to revile Mitt Romney during his meanspirited run for president in 2012 against Barack Obama were forced to re-evaluate their blanket disdain as Romney became one of Trump’s most intractable and effective Republican critics. Romney’s vote to convict Trump during Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020 was an incredibly gutsy move that helped affirm the legitimacy of the whole effort. In 2021, Romney was joined by six other Republicans voting to convict Trump for inciting the January 6th insurrection.
On a policy level, however, there’s much less praise to shower on Romney’s legacy. Romney was no help to Democrats in passing major priorities like the Inflation Reduction Act, and Romney voted for Amy Coney Barrett to solidify the new right-wing U.S. Supreme Court majority today wreaking havoc on decades of civil rights progress. Romney will always be remembered as the presidential candidate who in 2012 wrote off 47% of Americans “who are dependent on government,” flat-out saying “my job is not to worry about those people.”
Like former Rep. Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney’s sole redemption before the judgment of history is that he would not join Donald Trump’s cult of personality. This increasingly set Romney at odds with the prevalent direction of his party, and it’s likely that in Romney would have faced a spirited MAGA primary challenger–and based on that, Trump will of course claim victory. It’s ironic that Romney’s better angels only made themselves apparent after an even worse rich Republican ran for President.
For helping hold the line against Trump’s assault on American democracy, Mitt Romney gets his share of credit.
And whoever the voters of Utah elect next will probably make us miss Romney more.