Holly Richardson: Not everyone hates Mitt Romney

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather in support of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, at the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Republicans in the state are unusually divided on the president, so while some were heartened to see Romney cast what he described as an agonizing vote dictated by his conscience, Trump supporters were left angry and frustrated.

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies but even more to stand up to your friends.”

— J.K. Rowling

This week, Sen. Mitt Romney took the harder path and stood up to his friends and colleagues by voting to convict President Donald Trump.

Let’s be clear. There was never any question how the impeachment process would go down, just like there was never any question about how it would go for Bill Clinton. It would have been much easier for Romney to go along with the impeachment farce and vote to acquit like the rest of his colleagues — but he did not do that.

I’m pretty sure that no one is surprised by Trump’s pettiness towards the good senator, or about far-right groups being angry that not everyone gives Trump a free pass to do whatever he wants.

What is disappointing, however, is the heat he is taking from Utah’s elected officials and current candidates, including some candidates for office who originally ran on Romney’s coattails. Back then, he could do no wrong. Now, they can’t chuck him under the bus fast enough.

Do legislators really want to set the precedent of advocating for censure every time someone disagrees with them? I mean that’s kind of what the tax referendum was, wasn’t it? And legislators still respond with condescension because, “If they only knew what I know, then they would make different choices.”

Perhaps if our state legislators knew what Romney knew, they would have made the same choice he did.

Instead of agreeing to disagree and allowing for differences of opinion within the same political party (you know - the one that claims to be a big tent), they are quick to grovel in front of Trump, hurrying to praise Trump (Speaker Brad Wilson’s bill) and censure Romney (Rep. Phil Lyman’s bill).

Gubernatorial candidate and Salt Lake County Council Member Aimee Winder Newton tweeted on Friday that she understands that many state legislators are disappointed with Romney’s vote. “But creating a culture of censuring could come back their way when counties/cities disagree with how their legislator votes. Do we really want to go there?” she asks.

(There are some exceptions and I recognize and appreciate that. Thank you! Hopefully you can talk some sense into your colleagues.)

So why the rush to praise Trump and punish Romney? Because Trump is threatening to withhold federal funds? Really? So you kneel before the bully and beg him not to hurt you? That’s not how this works.

In case legislators have forgotten, Utah has already taken a look at how much money comes from the feds and how the state would take care of ourselves if that money was pulled. States rights and self-sufficiency and all. Of course, the fact that Barack Obama was president at the time wouldn’t have anything to do with that, right?

The bottom line is that Romney did what he felt was right. He is clear about that and has reiterated his “why” multiple times. In spite of the loud voices who are busy calling him names, there are many of us out here who are cheering for him.

Some are not affiliated with any political party. Some are Democrats who have maybe never agreed with Romney before and probably won’t again. And some of us are still in the Republican Party but have wondered if there is anyone out there who represents us, someone who does not make political party participation their main religion and who does not worship at the altar of Trump.

Sen. Romney made a politically difficult choice and I get that many people are really angry. But by his vote this week, Romney has also given many Utahns hope. High-five, Senator. You do not stand alone.

Holly Richardson

Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.