“Aren’t you embarrassed?” Romney asked the crowd of 2,000 Republican delegates attempting to boo him off the stage. The shouts of disapproval came amid a day of reckoning for the senator from Utah who was in town on Saturday to attend a local Republican party organizing convention. Later that night, he barely survived a censure vote. 711 people voted in favor of the resolution. 798 voted against it. The reason for the potential censuring? Romney’s two votes to convict former Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection.
For the former Republican nominee for President, it must’ve been a humbling moment. At the same time, he probably should’ve seen it coming. After all, a similar fate had befallen his friends Rep. Liz Cheney, the late Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Richard Burr. Romney, it seems, is just the latest victim in the Republicans’ assault on sanity.
"You can boo all you like," Romney fired back. "But I've been a Republican all my life. My dad was a governor of Michigan, my dad worked for Republican candidates that he believed in. I worked for Republicans across the country.” His multiple declarations of his long-time association with the Republican party seemed to only fuel the audience’s ire. Later in his speech, Romney referred to himself as an “old fashioned Republican.” In response, the crowd booed more and called him a “traitor” and a “communist.” According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the “cacophony of disapproval” only let up when outgoing party chair Derek Brown pleaded for decency.
The most revelatory detail of this whole ordeal is that Romney thought rattling off his conservative credentials might help his case. Did he just wake up from a five-year nap? It’s one thing to be anti-Trump. Plenty of Republicans have bemoaned the current state of the Republican party, but very few of them have publicly declared their allegiance to an unpopular and dated version of the GOP. You don’t see Sen. Lisa Murkowski wandering around in a t-shirt that says “Proud to be a RHINO!”
Most of the Republicans that feel the way Romney does—Jeff Flake, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman—have either already retired or plan to ahead of the next election cycle. They are a part of what many in the media have declared the Trump-era “Republican exodus.” But whereas other moderate Republicans have seen what the party is turning into and decided to jump ship, Romney seems to be holding out hope that things will change. It’s as if he believes that the bloated figure on the horizon is just a mirage, when really it’s Ted Cruz.
Time and time again Romney has acted shocked and appalled at the activity within his own party. In his speech condemning the insurrection on the Capitol, Romney’s unique blend of integrity and naivete were on display when he said, “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.” Clearly he had faith that somehow the people who had been fed an intoxicating diet of lies and disinformation would suddenly spring for a kernel of truth. This of course turned out not to be the case which is why Romney was almost censured.
The powerful wing of the Trump party will continue to make an example out of Romney and his allies so long as he continues to insist on the decency and relevancy of his brand of Republicanism. Remember when Matt Gaetz went to Wyoming to gin up animosity towards Rep. Liz Cheney and convert people to Trumpism? At any point, something similar could happen to Romney. That’s what makes his inability to comprehend what is happening before his very eyes not just delusional, but dangerous.
Denial always surfaces the very issue it is trying to avoid. Romney’s insistence that the GOP of yesteryear will eventually be restored, coupled with his willingness to be the party’s punching bag in the meantime, only hastens its erosion. If he really wanted to do right by his beloved version of the Grand Ol’ Party, Romney would stop valiantly defending it before it becomes as much a source of mockery as the version that is sure to subsume it.
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