Lots of the commentary on new Senator Mitt Romney’s op-ed piece this week in the Washington Post has dismissed liberal and progressive criticism of his rebuke of Trump’s demeanor and leadership style by saying that we can’t expect Romney, the former GOP presidential candidate, to actually vote against Trump’s policies when those policies do not align with Republican objectives. Indeed, Romney builds this arugment into his op-ed, so he already has a defense of why his act of resistance is purely performative. When, in a few weeks, we find that he’s voting for the racist, xenophobic, and classist policies that Trump also supports, he’ll remind us that it was never his intention not to force such policies on the American public, only that he doesn’t want to use mean words when he does so.
Which is what we must expect from Republicans, right? Baby steps away from talking like a racist xenophobe, to just enacting policies that hurt society’s most vulnerable!
We don’t have to celebrate that.
In Kansas this fall, four state lawmakers, all women, left the GOP and declared themselves Democrats. Was it opportunistic of them to run as Republicans in red Kansas, only to switch parties? Maybe. But, whenever their conversion happened, they now are living with–and, ideally, governing from–their convictions.
But that’s not what Romney should do, right? I mean, he’s convictions align perfectly with a tax plan that is widely considered to be a total disaster.
Above, Romney and Trump share a handshake.
He STILL shouldn’t vote with Trump. Here’s why:
Trump continues to act in ways that are vulgar (racist, misogynistic, sexist, violent, stupid, puerile, classist) because doing so works. His vulgarity won him the GOP primary and turned out a record number of Republicans to the polls in 2016. His vulgarity continues to help him remain popular among Republican voters. If he is re-elected, it won’t be because he delivered on his campaign promises but because his vulgarity excites his voters.
For him to stop being vulgar, being vulgar has to stop working for him.
That only happens when Republicans in Congress agree to allow it to stop working. In parenting, we call this extinction: to make sure that a child’s bad behavior does not get the child what the child wants.
The question Romney and other Senate Republicans have to ask is: If I had to give up on the wall in order to make Trump shut his xenophobic mouth, would I? If I had to oppose Brett Kavanaugh in favor of a pro-life candidate who hasn’t been credibly accused of sexual assault in order to make Trump stop mocking victims of rape, would I? If the only way to get him to stop praising dictators and denigrating a free press was to oppose his talks with North Korea, would I?
They don’t do these things because, ultimately, they aren’t too bothered by Trump’s vulgarity to make any sacrifices of their party’s political objectives.
And, since that is the case–since Romney isn’t going to risk a political loss in order to prevent the continued erosion of democratic norms–he needs to shush.