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The dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one or the strength in the face of pain and grief. When I think of courage, I think of historical figures like Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Why was she courageous? Of what was she afraid? She was going to be arrested and sent to jail by not giving up that seat. Think about that for a second. She could just as easily got up and gone to the back of the bus, knowing that she could go home that evening and on with her day. By not giving up that seat, she knew that she was not going to be home to make dinner. She was possibly going to have to spend the night, and perhaps a few nights in jail, if she had to wait on someone to come and bail her out. Then she was going to have to possibly go to court, and deal with an unsympathetic judge. Perhaps people in her social circle would have ostracized her for being a trouble maker. Her local church might have told her that she was sinning because she wasn’t obeying the law (some churches really taught that). She could have avoided all of this by simply getting up, and taking a seat at the back of the bus. She decided not to give up her seat, knowing all that might ensue. That is courage!
This week the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Everyone voted along party lines, the Democrats voting to convict, and the Republicans voting not guilty. All but one. There was one Republican among the 53 who decided that at least on the charge of abuse of power, that he had to vote guilty. That lone senator is Republican Mitt Romney from Utah.
Mitt Romney spoke on the Senate floor about his vote. He spoke of his religious conviction and how that guided his decision. He spoke of what he will be able to tell his children and grandchildren. He waxed on about how he labored with his decision as he weighed the Constitution and its providence in the arc of history, and that ultimately knowing that the President and his allies are going to vehemently attack him in the days and months to come that he had no choice. He had to vote guilty because of his oath before God that he (Romney) takes seriously above all else.
Many have lauded Romney’s courage in this moment. He is after all subjecting himself to a huge amount of blow back from the White House. Even Romney’s niece Ronna McDaniel (she dropped her maiden name Romney because well…Trump) tweeted that this is not the first time that she has disagreed with Mitt, and it will not be the last. Trump attacked Romney advising that if Romney had spent the same energy defeating Barack Obama that he could have won the election. Laura Ingram of FoxNews said of Romney that he should resign and that she might run against him in 2024 for his Senate seat.
Is this what Romney was afraid of when he cast his vote? Tweets and mean words? Let’s be honest. Romney still has his net worth of $250 million dollars according to www.celebritynetworth.com that he earned in the 1990s while he was the CEO of Bain & Company. His bank account is fine.
Mitt Romney is a Mormon and Mormons represent 62% of Utah’s 3.1 million residents. More interesting still is that in 2016 Donald Trump won the state of Utah with 45.54% of the vote, but 21.54% of residents in Utah voted for Independent candidate Evan McMullin and 27.46% of residents in Utah voted for Clinton. Trump received 515,231 votes, but Hillary Clinton and Evan McMullin received 554,366 votes for a combined percentage of 49%. Because of the demographics of Utah, Mitt Romney is in no real danger of losing his Senate seat, even if the Republican Party goes after him in November. His job is fine.
Though we live in a partisan time right now in America, Donald Trump is now the first elected president to be impeached. While he was not convicted and removed (no president has been removed) his impeachment will remain indelibly marked forever in this country’s history. History will also remember that there was one Senator from the president’s party who voted for his conviction, another first in this country’s history. History won’t remember Mitt Romney’s name, but they will remember that it wasn’t a straight party vote. At least one Republican believed that Trump should be removed. I would argue Romney’s legacy is fine.
So what did Romney really need to fear? A few tweets and unkind words from Trump and the others in his orbit? Romney is a 72 year old centa-millionaire now serving in the US senate who is ostensibly in no danger from any Trump reprisal. If you have nothing to fear, were you really courageous?