On Tuesday, amidst the stretch-run of a 2020 presidential campaign that has turned particularly ugly, Republican Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) issued a statement expressing a sober assessment of deteriorating partisanship and calling for civility. What the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said encapsulated an experienced statesman’s mindset of leadership…
But could he actually be the future leader of the Republican party too?
In a statement issued via Twitter Tuesday, Romney lamented the current state of American politics, criticizing both Republicans and Democrats in fierce terms.
“I have stayed quiet with the approach of the election,” Romney said in his statement. “But I’m troubled by our politics, as it has moved away from spirited debate to a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass that is unbecoming of any free nation – let alone the birthplace of modern democracy.”
Castigating Trump, Romney said: “The president calls the Democratic vice presidential candidate ‘a monster;’ he repeatedly labels the speaker of the House ‘crazy;’ he calls for the Justice Department to put the prior president in jail; he attacks the governor of Michigan on the very day a plot is discovered to kidnap her.” Romney’s statement also ripped Democrats, particularly Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for tearing up the President’s State of the Union speech this past winter.
“It is time to lower the heat. Leaders must tone it down. Leaders from the top and leaders of all stripes. Parents, bosses, reporters, columnists, professors, union chiefs, everyone. The consequence of the crescendo of anger leads to a very bad place. No sane person can want that.”
But do the majority of current Republican voters want more, or less, leaders like Senator Romney?
The failed presidential candidate has been largely lauded by moderates and even some Democrats for his approach to his statesman-like service in the Senate, reminding his followers of what the pre-Trump Republican leadership was to many of its members. Along with groups such as the Lincoln Project, Romney remains a vocal acolyte to a Republican party that has largely been ravaged over the past for years by the advent of Trumpism. He also has endeavored to cast the GOP in a more empathetic light, for example marching in the Black Lives Matter protests this summer.
Romney’s Twitter statement, like his other expressions of leadership, is being embraced by moderates, yet is unlikely to win over the endorsement of many of President Trump’s supporters. Since Romney cast the only Republican vote for President Trump’s impeachment this winter, he has remained at the the center of many GOP supporters’ ire ever since.
Nonetheless, the message embedded within Romney’s recent statement is the kind of leadership the nation desperately needs to hear – on both sides of the political divide. Enflamed political passions are nothing new in America, particularly during the heat of presidential elections. But this year’s election has taken on an even more tumultuous tone, with fears that overheated political rhetoric could even spill over into political violence.
With almost all credible polls showing President Trump trailing his Democratic challenger Joe Biden both nationally and in several battleground states, there has been an increased focus on the question of who would lead the Republican party should Trump lose. Numerous rising Republican stars, such as former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, and Vice-President Mike Pence, have been focused on both supporting the President’s agenda and winning over his supporters. Yet Romney, who is a freshman senator but also the former Republican standard-bearer, has consistently chosen to cut his own path of conservative leadership, endeavoring to avoid the Trumpian trance than many of his colleagues in the Senate seem to have fallen victim to. By doing so, Romney not only has managed to stay consistent with the principles of the Republican party of the past…
But perhaps also lay claim to the leadership of the Republican party of the future?
It remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: by trying to rise above the political fray with his statement calling for calm, Romney is demonstrating the kind of Republican leadership that even moderate Democrats have been looking for. As the dust settles in November, particularly if Trump loses, GOP voters and the nation will be looking to see what becomes of the Republican party and who will lead its optimistic reconstruction or its angry descent into irrelevance. Either way, while Romney may be calling for civility, he isn’t staying silent. That kind of leadership is a good thing for Republicans…