“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
— Winston Churchill
In a moment of national turmoil, we find ourselves looking for courageous leaders who will both stand up and speak about the challenges we face, and sit down and listen to the evidence in front of them.
Last week, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney exemplified this leadership as he took a step away from the partisan battle lines in D.C. and spoke up against a Republican president who made a “brazen and unprecedented appeal” to foreign governments to interfere in our elections. Romney has set an example for all elected officials to follow, on both sides of the aisle.
By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 4, 2019
It has been relatively easy for Democrats to call out President Trump’s unethical acts. They do so with the full support of their constituents and their party. With few exceptions, speaking out against the White House during this time will not cost them support or possibly a future election. It is expected and even encouraged.
But in a hyper-partisan environment, where parties have become tribes, the cost for a Republican like Romney to speak critically about a member of his own party is very high. We watched the reaction from Trump over the weekend as he used foul language to lash out repeatedly on Twitter, and we have read on social media the hateful comments flung like weapons from both sides of the political spectrum.
We can only assume that Romney’s courageous stance struck a nerve, and that his words are causing even the most nakedly partisan players in Washington to feel uneasy. By stepping outside party lines, Romney has exposed the craven nature of many of his peers; they will protect the president at any cost, regardless of his actions. There is no room for loyal or principled dissent, even from within. This is not the strategy of any party committed to the rule of law or ethical government.
Romney has nothing to gain by speaking out, and has chosen to do so out of principle. He is looking beyond partisan advantage and acting in the best interest of the nation as a whole. We invite all other elected representatives to follow his lead and to thoroughly and fairly evaluate the charges laid out in the impeachment inquiry. Their first priority should be the integrity of the political system and the sovereignty of the United States.
For Republicans, this may mean charting a path that diverges from the president and some of their Republican colleagues. In the case of Democrats, it may mean suppressing any desire to posture or act with an eye on future elections, committing to be fair and measured during the investigation.
As women of faith who are called to be peacemakers, the members of Mormon Women for Ethical Government are praying for our nation at this crucial juncture. With the news that the president is refusing to participate in the impeachment inquiry, we find the stakes raised once again. We have faith in the integrity of those who, like Romney, are committed to upholding their oath of office and leading this nation past the partisan wars currently occupying the halls of Congress. We carry that faith with us as we do the work required to bring peace to those halls.
To our leaders, we say, have the courage to stand up and speak boldly, as well as to sit down and listen to each other. To our citizens, we say, have the courage to support those who do so. Peacemaking demands both from each of us.
Emma Petty Addams is the executive director and Catherine Eslinger is the Utah chapter lead of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.