This week, after months of speculation in the political world, Utah Senator Mitt Romney did what so few politicians seem to be doing these days: he announced he’d be retiring at the end of his term in 2025, citing the need for a new generation of leaders. In his retirement video, the seventy-six-year-old Romney stayed on brand, speaking to his constituents in his Senate office, flanked by pictures of his family and a range of awards that he has received during his years of public service. With barely any gray hair, there is no way you could tell that he is approaching 80. Romney looks more or less the same as he did in 2012 when he was the Republican nominee for President running against Barack Obama. That was, of course, before the rise of Donald Trump and before Romney became a political exile within the party that formerly attached its name to his presidential ticket.
In the years after his election loss to President Obama, Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, moved to Utah (home to a large Mormon population) and urgently warned the nation of the potential impacts of a Trump presidency. Known to the country as a devout man of faith and the patriarch of a family that includes 24 grandkids, Romney always carried a reputation as a professional, straight-laced guy in public life. His deep and genuine commitment to his family, community, and our country over personal benefit, politics, and power is what makes him a rare and dying breed today. A middle-of-the-road politician, he remains the most recent Republican presidential nominee to run an intellectual campaign that offered a legitimate path forward for America’s future and refused to instill demagoguery into our political culture.
In January 2020, Senator Romney made history by becoming the first U.S. Senator in history to vote to convict a President of his own party in an impeachment trial. He had hoped that his courageous example would summon courage among other Republicans, but less than a year later, the usually cool and collected Senator found himself throwing his arms up in fury as rioters, incited by President Trump, stormed the Capitol. In the midst of chaos on the Senate floor, Romney remembers turning to other Republicans, enraged, yelling “You did this!” In the aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, Romney reflected on his role in American politics in the last century. How was it that the same party that had nominated him had also nominated Trump a mere four years later?
In the end, history will likely not remember Romney primarily for his 2012 run for President, but for his six years in the Senate. In his tenure, Romney revealed himself to the country to be the man that his closest supporters always knew he was: a man of honor and decency. A profile in courage, he endured threats and harassment over his impeachment votes. In a time defined by left versus right, he asked his fellow Americans to think about right versus wrong. In many ways, Romney is the product of a bygone era where compromise ruled and where the best intentions of the opposition were always assumed, not for one’s own personal benefit, but for the good of our democracy. Senator Romney will most certainly leave the Senate without many friends in Washington, but he will always have the respect of a grateful nation. One of the last true American statesmen of our age, Mitt Romney has given us a roadmap to civility, truth, and justice. As a reasonable man, let us hope his example can lead us out of such an unreasonable time.