One of the questions I am asked frequently on the campaign trail is whether as Senator I will support the Trump agenda. I’ve learned this means different things to different people. That difference, I believe, is a defining choice for Republicans.
On one hand there are those who believe supporting the Trump agenda means supporting every policy the president proposes, whether or not they actually agree with that policy. It means refraining from criticizing anything the president says or does. The argument for this position is that you pick a team, so to speak, and when the leader of the team is criticized, his or her power to act is weakened and the opposition helped. So in order to achieve Republican policy aims, solid Republicans should stand with the president 100 percent, or at least stay silent when in disagreement.
I take a different course. I will support the president’s policies when I believe they are in the best interest of Utah and the nation. I have noted, the first year of his administration has exceeded my expectations; he made our corporate tax code globally competitive, worked to reduce unnecessary regulations and restored multiple use on Utah public land. In addition, I am pleased that he backed away from imposing a 35 percent tariff on all foreign goods.
But I have openly expressed my disagreement with certain of the administration decisions such as the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); I want more markets open for Utah and American goods. I also oppose broad-based tariffs, such as those proposed on steel and aluminum, particularly when they are imposed on our allies. I agree, however, with narrower penalties levied on companies or nations that employ unfair trade practices, such as China.
I have and will continue to speak out when the president says or does something which is divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions. I do not make this a daily commentary; I express contrary views only when I believe it is a matter of substantial significance.
People ask me why I feel compelled to express my disagreements with the president. I believe that when you are known as a member of a “team,” and the captain says or does something you feel is morally wrong, if you stay silent you tacitly assent to the captain’s posture.
Dr. Martin Luther King noted, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I appreciate the argument made by those who believe we should stay silent, but I cannot subscribe to it. I know that any criticism may lessen the president’s flexibility to enact policy with which I agree, but that end does not justify my silence in the face of things that matter.
A critical part of being president is shaping domestic and foreign policy. Just as important, the president of the United States shapes the character of our country; Presidents Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush all impacted the character of who we are as a people. I sometimes wonder which has the more lasting effect, policy or character? I hope for both.
If you elect me your senator, I will fight with vigor for the interests of our state and nation. I will endorse the president’s policies that support those interests. Hopefully, there will be few occasions where I will be compelled by conscience to criticize. But, as I have said throughout this campaign, I will call them like I see them. Last week, the president said that I’m a straight shooter; I will endeavor to be just so.
Mitt Romney is a Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Utah.