Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The vote for obstruction of justice was split clean, dividing Democrats voting to convict and Republicans voting to acquit. This came as no surprise to those who understand party politics. It’s not likely that politicians would remove someone from power that belongs to their own party. But what did come as a surprise? Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for the presidency, defied the party he has been loyal to for over 20 years and voted to convict President Trump on abuse of power.
Some may see this move as a frivolous rebellion – Romney’s vote was not enough to get the Democrats to the 67 votes to convict that they needed. However, the Utah Senator played a small but important role in how we perceive politicians and the work they do in our government.
The 72-year-old former Massachusetts governor took the floor to defend his vote in an emotional attempt to persuade other Republicans to vote to convict the President. Romney, a devout Mormon, used his time in front of his fellow senators to demonstrate his love for his country and the importance of his job being a public servant – “my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Was I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history's rebuke and the censure of my own conscience."
Timothy Johnson, a professor of political science and law at the University of Minnesota, finds it “refreshing to see [Romney] put country above party. It’s a statement about the system, institutions shouldn’t be driven by ideology or adherence to party but to the Constitution of the United States.”
Romney has since been vilified by his Republican colleagues for his choice to stand against the president. Along with politicians, prior supporters of Romney have reacted in varying ways. Doug Durbano, an attorney from Utah, wrote a letter to the Senator shaming him for his actions and formally asking for the money he donated to his campaign back. Mitt Romney was aware of the repercussions he would face and continued to do what he thought was right, regardless of what fellow Republicans did to strike back at him.
This one simple vote doesn't change the entire way Mitt Romney goes about his politics. These remarks from politicians and donors alike will seize their importance as will the demands for Romney to leave office. This one vote against his party will not be his undoing nor will his colleagues hold it against him for the rest of the time. Mitt Romney is setting an example for younger generations in politics and how we must proceed in positions of power with guidance from our moral compasses, not donors or allegiance to political parties. We must do what we believe is correct, not what will benefit a greater institution.