The United States, facing threats from authoritarian regimes abroad and from people attacking our power structures at home, is failing to address the biggest issues of the day.
The rise of China. Climate change. The debt.
Those are the top three challenges, according to Sen. Mitt Romney, who delivered a speech Friday about the U.S. Constitution at Brigham Young University in Provo.
“Those three big issues, we’re really not dealing with. And it is not a matter of our structure doesn’t allow it,” he said. “Instead, people of capacity have not exercised the political will to take on the big issues. I hope that changes.”
The Utah senator, and former Republican presidential candidate, said he has watched the rise of authoritarian countries like China and Russia, arguing they are stronger today than the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. But it goes beyond these big powers to nations like Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and more.
He criticized Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for traveling to Hungary and then suggesting the U.S. should follow in the model of the authoritarian leader there.
“Hungary is ranked as one of the least-free, least-democratic countries in the developed world,” Romney said. “Hungary? A model for America?”
Romney has also seen more people in the United States criticize and attack the nation’s power structures, be they political leaders, the military, the intelligence community or the courts. He argued efforts by Democrats to expand the Supreme Court, remove the Electoral College and eliminate the filibuster in the Senate fit into these attacks. He said conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, have eroded trust in institutions, too.
“Now, no more stunning evidence of that was the attempt to prevent the lawful and constitutional transfer of power on Jan. 6. It followed from the president of the United States claiming that the election had been stolen from him,” Romney said. “His purported evidence spun from pillar to post, from counterfeit ballots imported from China to stuffed ballot boxes, to dead voters, to voting machines manipulated from some far off place.”
Romney’s prescription to fight these concerns and refocus on the biggest issues of the day is “to exercise, what our founders called, public virtues.”
He put that in context for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the flagship school owned by his faith.
“The founder of my religion is reported to have said that the Constitution of the United States would some day hang, as it were, by a thread. Further, that the elders of the church would save it. And they didn’t have tape recorders back then or smartphones. And I’m not sure at all that he actually said that. But if you will allow me some literary license,” Romney said, “I’d suggest that this sentiment may apply to all of us, not just to a few Latter-day Saint elders.”
He said those public virtues included listening to others you disagree with, to seek out quality sources of news, to defend the whole U.S. Constitution, and to elect people of strong moral character.
Romney lamented that “increasingly what’s happening is that people who are getting elected are performers.” He argues these officials are trying to curry public favor, following polls to do what is popular, when he said the role of elected officials is to represent those who vote for them even if that means making hard choices.
“I hope that we’re able to return,” he added, “to a time when those who we elect often do things we disagree with.”
Romney is a first-term U.S. senator who has taken votes with which a number of people in his party disagree. He was booed at the state Republican convention this year, in part, for voting against Trump in two impeachment trials and for acknowledging that President Joe Biden won the election. He recently was one of the Republican negotiators on an infrastructure bill now before the House.