Should liberals really congratulate Mitt Romney for doing the bare minimum in the impeachment trial?

Yes, his 'guilty' vote was an unexpected joy. But is this all we need now to make someone a hero?

Donald Trump (right) again blasted Senator Mitt Romney on Monday. Getty Images
Donald Trump (right) again blasted Senator Mitt Romney on Monday. Getty Images

Nobody can pretend to be especially surprised about the acquittal of Donald J Trump today. If you didn’t know Republican Senators were planning to stand by their favorite screaming yam by Tuesday, you certainly knew after his MAGA rally-style State of the Union speech, where the number of alternative facts was about equal to the number of standing ovations. Those shiny, happy faces told us we weren’t going to see an unexpected Republican rebellion in the Senate on Wednesday night. So we didn’t hold out any hope.

What unexpected joy, then, when Senator Mitt Romney voted “guilty”. It was like a little slant of light penetrating a room we all thought had been cast into perpetual darkness long ago. And what unexpected horror for the president, who had clearly been intending to claim “TOTAL EXONERATION” once again. “Almost total exoneration except for the Senator for Utah” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

Of course, he will be punished. He has already ruined the 12pm “VICTORY” speech about the “IMPEACHMENT HOAX” promised by Trump on Twitter almost as soon as news of the acquittal dropped. At the same time as the president announced his upcoming speech, Donald Trump Jr was retweeting insults from right-wingers about Romney calling him a “useful idiot” for the left, a “man of gross ambition” and “forever bitter” accompanied by the hashtag #ExpelMitt. The idea that Mitt should be TOTALLY EXONERATED from the Republican Party is now being touted across the internet by people who understood what democracy meant when they were talking about protecting Trump voters in the 2016 election but then conveniently forgot again when one of their own refused to vote with the pack.

Should we be congratulating Romney for taking a principled stand? Well, yes and no. He did the right thing, even though he knew there was very little to gain. He did it publicly, and he did it even though he will undoubtedly face severe consequences if Trump wins again in the November election. He knew he was alone. Perhaps he tried to sound others out and they refused to stand with him. He did it after others we thought might cast a “guilty” vote folded.

Romney never wanted Trump to be president. He opposed him in 2016, and perhaps there’s even truth in Don Jr’s tweet about him being “forever bitter” about not getting the presidency. He was certainly more qualified to do it. You can see why he might have considered he could do a better job.

Mitt Romney to break from Republicans and vote to convict Trump on impeachment

But Romney is no liberal hero. He has flip-flopped on abortion many times, at one point describing himself as dedicated to “a woman’s right to choose” and at another (and more recently) saying that he would like to see Roe v Wade overturned. He doesn’t seem to know whether he believes humans can cause climate change — like his stance on abortion, he seems to have gone backwards on the issue. He once thought illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship, and then apparently he didn’t. And when he once seemed comfortable to challenge the NRA, he later solicited their endorsement.

So, how do liberals react now he has done something we can all agree with? Do we recognize the risk he took and celebrate him for it? Do we read it as a calculated move by a man who believes Trump is headed for a loss in a few months’ time? Or do we shake our heads and refuse to give a standing ovation to a single Republican for doing the absolute bare minimum that decency dictates?

Like Mitt Romney contemplating whether I deserve bodily autonomy as a woman, I’m just not sure. And I don’t know whether I’m ready — even in these dark, dark times — to make a dyed-in-the-wool conservative with questionable views on everything except Donald Trump my hero.

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