Mitt Romney retires
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) speaks to the press in his Senate office. Romney announced earlier in the day that he would not be running for reelection, September 13, 2023. Photo credit: © Aaron Schwartz/ZUMA Press Wire

Mitt Romney is a true Republican-in-name-only. And that’s not because he has changed since becoming the 2012 GOP nominee. It’s because today’s Republican Party is unrecognizable from the one he led not so long ago.

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There are no two people who better epitomize what the GOP pretends to be and what it is than Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and Donald Trump, the man who succeeded him.

If you knew nothing about US politics, and somebody explained to you what Republicans were supposed to stand for, you’d assume that Romney would be their leader: A family man, a champion of business, steady, successful, principled, and devout (although perhaps the wrong religion). With his handsome, distinguished face and pleasant voice, he even looked and sounded the part of the perfect GOP politician.

But, as it turns out, that one-time image of an ideal Republican leader is far removed from today’s reality, and Romney is not at all what current conservatives are looking for.

And that is why the Utah senator is now an outcast, a Republican-in-name-only (RINO), and Donald Trump, an immoral, gross, authoritarian crook, is the party’s standard bearer.

By almost any measure, Romney’s career has been a remarkable success.

He earned millions of dollars in the private industry, helped make the 2002 Winter Olympics a success, and became the governor of deep-blue Massachusetts, where he instituted a near-universal health care system and reduced the deficit.

Although he initially expressed some moderate views on issues like abortion and gay marriage, Romney later became more conservative as he prepared for his first presidential campaign. In 2008, he lost the GOP nomination to John McCain, then senator from Arizona, but became the nominee four years later, only to lose to incumbent President Barack Obama.

Let that sink in: Less than 10 years after he was chosen as the Republican nominee, Romney felt compelled to spend more than $1.5 million of his own money per year protecting his loved ones from Trump’s rabid supporters.

Romney then resurrected his political career one more time and won one of Utah’s Senate seats in 2018.

But, according to an excerpt of a biography which will be published later this year, he quickly found out that neither the Senate nor this party were the right place for him.

Romney truly deserves the RINO label. But that’s not because he has changed; it’s because the GOP has lurched right.

And the senator knows this.

“A very large portion of my party really doesn’t believe in the Constitution,” he told autobiographer McKay Coppins.  

But that was not the only realization he came to during his five years in the Senate. Republicans, as it turns out, also don’t believe in courage.

As Romney tells it, he learned that “almost without exception,” his GOP colleagues shared his loathing of Trump.

Here is how Coppins describes it:

In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president’s most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddler­-like psyche.

This is, of course, consistent with everything we have learned since Trump took the helm of the GOP. The brain-washed masses adore him while those in the know think he is a dangerous buffoon.

How dangerous?

Dangerous enough for United States senators to oppose Trump’s impeachment because they were afraid of the mob he would sic on them.

According to Romney, Republicans in both the House and the Senate told him that they wanted to vote to impeach/convict Trump for inciting the insurrection that had them fearing for their lives on January 6, but they chose not to because they were worried about their own safety and that of their families.

Romney, of course, voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials, thereby becoming the first senator in history to vote to remove a president of the same party from office.

But other senators don’t just lack Romney’s courage, they also lack his resources. According to the book, the senator has been spending $5,000 per day on private security for his family.

Let that sink in: Less than 10 years after he was chosen as the Republican nominee, Romney felt compelled to spend more than $1.5 million of his own money per year protecting his loved ones from Trump’s rabid supporters.

There may be no better illustration of how quickly the GOP has morphed from a conservative political party into a right-wing cult.

One of the main reasons this is happening is that, nearly unanimously, Republicans are cowering before Trump. The ones who do say something are either pushed out or choose to leave… like Romney or former Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL).

And with every departure, the party becomes more like Trump: dishonest, corrupt, and soulless.

Of course Romney is doing the right thing. He doesn’t owe this GOP anything, and he belongs neither in this party nor the current Republican delegation in the Senate.

Even his reasoning is sound and admirable. Romney is 76 years old and knows that another generation should run the country. In his announcement, he called on President Joe Biden and Trump to step aside as well and make room for younger leaders.

Sadly, telling most politicians to voluntarily give up prestige and power is an exercise in futility.

But that’s no longer Romney’s problem. At the end of his term, he can leave with his head held high and be assured that, ultimately, he will be remembered as someone who did the right thing.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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